Restaurant Workers

Rosa Mexicano Reaches $3.6 Million Settlement with Servers for Tip Violations and Overtime

rosa mexicano overtime pay lawsuit tip theft

Rosa Mexicano has agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit alleging that the upscale Mexican restaurant chain failed to pay its waitstaff minimum and overtime wages and misappropriated tips.  The settlement agreement covers an estimated 3,500 employees at twelve locations in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Minneapolis.

The restaurant workers filed the lawsuit suit in New York federal court in July of 2016, arguing Rosa Mexicano claimed an invalid tip credit and improperly paid their waitstaff at a tipped minimum wage instead of the full minimum wage. The waitstaff claims in their lawsuit that Rosa Mexicano did not inform them they would be paid at tipped minimum wage and misappropriated their tips, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”). Tips were shared with “floaters”, who conducted miscellaneous tasks around the restaurant without ever having customer contact. According to the lawsuit, these “floaters” were not entitled to sharing in a tip pool, invalidating Rosa Mexicano’s tip credit.  The wage theft lawsuit also claimed that Rosa Mexicano did not pay waitstaff for hours worked over forty per week. Some former servers claimed to work up to 50 hours per week without receiving overtime pay. The lawsuit also alleges that waitresses, waiters, bussers, and bartenders did not receive “call-in pay” required under NYLL, when they reported for work only to be sent home before being able to work three hours. One of the former workers claims this happened on 146 shifts.  For these violations, the employees sought to recover unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime wages, unpaid “call-in pay”, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

The attorneys for the restaurant workers are by Fitapelli & Schaffer, a New York law firm. The settlement is subject to approval by United States Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

 

 

Maroni Restaurant Settles Cook’s Overtime Pay Lawsuit for $110k

Maroni overtime pay lawsuit

Renowned Long Island restaurant, Maroni Cuisine, has agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the restaurant did not pay a cook overtime pay, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”).  Maroni, notable for its exceptional meatballs, was voted the second best restaurant on Long Island by Zagat, and was also featured on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.”

The cook who brought the lawsuit alleged that he was required to work approximately fifty-two hours per week, and was misclassified as an exempt employee and paid a weekly salary contrary to the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.  The FLSA and NYLL provide that only employees who fit within the administrative, executive, or professional exemption qualify as exempt from the overtime laws, and all other employees must be paid overtime pay for hours worked over forty.

Vivianna Morales, an attorney with Pechman Law Group, was the lead attorney on behalf of the worker at Maroni.

Department of Labor Rescinds Tip Pooling Rule

tip tip pooling tip theft

The United States Department of Labor announced that it will revoke an Obama-era regulation prohibiting restaurants from pooling customers tips with back-of-the-house workers.  Although this change could have a significant impact in many areas of the country, New York State still has restrictions on who can participate in a tip pool.

The Legal History

Unless state laws require higher amounts, as is the case in New York State, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a federal law, requires employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour worked.  The FLSA allows restaurants to pay employees who regularly receive tips as little as $2.13 per hour if they make the difference (i.e., $5.12) per hour in tips.  The $5.12 difference is known as a “tip credit,” which is a privilege that the FLSA gives to restaurants.  The FLSA also allows restaurants to require tip-receiving employees to pool their tips for distribution among employees.

Before 2011, there was much debate about which employees could participate in a restaurant’s mandatory tip pool.  Some courts concluded that only employees who regularly receive tips and who spend at least 80% of their time serving customers at tables, known as “food service employees,” could participate in a tip pool.  These courts concluded that if a restaurant forced food service employees to share their tips with non-service employees, such as cooks or other back-of-the-house employees, then the restaurant violated the FLSA and had to pay back tips and other wages to the food service employees.  Other courts reached the opposite conclusion.  They reasoned that any employee should be allowed to participate in the mandatory tip pool as long as the restaurant did not take a tip credit and, instead, paid its employees the full minimum wage rate ($7.25 under federal law, but higher under New York State law).

In 2011, the US Department of Labor enacted a regulation that back-of-the-house employees cannot participate in a tip pool with front-of-the-house food service employees regardless of whether the restaurant takes a tip credit. The 2011 regulation mirrors the New York Labor Law and the New York State Department of Labor’s Hospitality Wage Order, which limit tip pooling to food service employees only.  In New York, back-of-the-house employees can never participate in a mandatory tip pool with front-of-the-house food service employees.

The Recent Change and Effect in New York

Under the Trump Administration, the US Department of Labor has announced that it will revoke the 2011 regulation.  The effect of this revocation is that in many areas of the country, but not in New York, restaurants that do not take a tip credit can require front-of-the-house employees to share their tips with any other restaurant employee.  Note that, restaurants that take a tip credit against front-of-the-house food service employees still cannot require them to share their tips with back-of-the-house workers.

These changes at the federal level have no impact in New York, whose laws and regulations already require that tips left by customers be given to front-of-the-house employees.  Under New York laws, food service employees can be required to share their tips only with other food service employees.   For example, a tip pool in a New York restaurant is lawful if it is composed of non-managerial bartenders, servers, bussers, and runners.  However, it would be unlawful for a New York restaurant to require servers and bartenders to share tips with a cook or manager.

“Best Restaurant in America” To Pay $2 million to Settle Tip Theft Lawsuit

Blue HIll tip theft lawsuit

Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant has agreed to pay its waitstaff $2 million to settle an unpaid wages and tip theft  lawsuit.

Recognized by Eater as the Best Restaurant in America for its locally-sourced farm-to-table cuisine, Blue Hill at Stone Barn and its sister restaurant in Manhattan was sued by two former servers in 2016 on behalf of themselves and all servers, bussers, bartenders, runners, and hosts and hostesses.  In their lawsuit, the servers claimed that Blue Hill required them to share their tips with expeditors, who were kitchen employees that did not interact with the restaurant’s customers.  The servers argued that this tip pooling system was unlawful.  Under the law, waitstaff should not be required to share their tips with restaurant employees who do not interact with customers, such as kitchen employees.

Attorneys for the workers also claimed that whenever there was a private event or banquet at Blue Hill, the restaurant led customers to believe that the “service” or “administrative” fee that they paid was a tip that would be distributed to the waitstaff.  According to the servers, Blue Hill unlawfully pocketed all service charges that customers paid, even though those amounts should have been given to the waitstaff as tips.

The wage theft lawsuit claimed that Blue Hill did not pay them minimum wages, as required under New York State law.  Because Blue Hill required the waitstaff to share tips with kitchen employees, like expeditors, in an unlawful tip pool, the restaurant could not pay waitstaff at a reduced minimum wage rate and take a tip credit.  Normally, if a restaurant meets several legal requirements, it may pay employees who regularly receive tips at a reduced hourly wage rate.  The restaurant loses this privilege if it pockets any part of the waitstaff’s tips or creates an unlawful tip pool.  For this reason, the servers claimed that they were owed the difference between the reduced hourly rates they were paid and the full minimum wage rates in New York.

Since the settlement, Blue Hill has eliminated tipping at its restaurants, a growing trend among New York restaurants.

 

Bojangles’ Assistant Managers Sue for Overtime

bojangles' overtime assistant managers

Two assistant managers who worked at a North Carolina Bojangles’ restaurant are suing the famous southern food chain for failing to pay them overtime.  The assistant managers argue that they were not actually managers and spent most of their time cleaning, taking orders, serving customers, and preparing, cooking, and packaging food.  Although they worked approximately fifty hours per week, Bojangles’ always paid the assistant managers the same set salary every week.

The law requires employers to pay employees overtime pay for hours worked over forty per week.  Overtime pay is equal to one and one-half (1.5) times an employee’s regular hourly rate of pay.  Employers can get in trouble with the law when they pay employees on a fixed weekly salary, because it does not cover overtime pay.

If several requirements are met, managers fall under an exception to the law and do not have to be paid overtime.  To fall under the exception, a restaurant “manager” must perform certain duties, such as directing the work of other employees, setting employees’ pay rates and work schedules, hiring and firing employees, and recommending the promotion or demotion of employees.  Managers should also have the power to act on behalf of the restaurant by, for example, ordering food on its behalf.  An employee who does not perform these duties and is simply called a “manager” or “assistant manager” does not fall under the exemption and must be paid overtime.  This is known as “misclassification.”

The Bojangles’ assistant managers claim that they were misclassified because they were paid a fixed weekly salary even though they did not perform the work duties of true managers.  Accordingly, they argue that Bojangles’ owes them and 400 other assistant managers unpaid overtime wages.  The lawsuit is pending in federal court in North Carolina.

 

IHOP Assistant Manager Received $40,000 Settlement for Overtime Claims

ihop assistant manager overtime pay lawsuit

An IHOP franchisee restaurant on Staten Island, New York will pay $40,000 to a former assistant manager to settle a lawsuit for unpaid overtime wages.  The assistant manager claimed that IHOP failed to pay her overtime wages for hours worked over forty per workweek.  This lawsuit continues a recent trend of restaurant workers alleging misclassification as Assistant Managers so they would be “exempt” from the FLSA requirement to receive overtime pay at time and a half for hours worked over forty in a workweek.

Only a limited number of employees in restaurants are “exempt” from the requirement of overtime pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL).  In order to qualify as an “exempt” under these laws, a restaurant worker has to fit within the administrative, executive, or professional exemption.  So, if a restaurant is paying a cook, maître’d, bookkeeper, host, or other non-management employee a salary for a workweek in excess of 40 hours, it is unlawfully failing to pay the employee overtime — regardless of how much the employee is paid.

The assistant manager was represented by Gianfranco Cuadra, an attorney at Pechman Law Group.  Congratulations to Franco on a successful litigation and negotiation of an excellent settlement.

 

 

New York City French Restaurant Bagatelle to Pay $1.1 Million for Tip Credit Violations

server restaurant image waiter tip credit

Bagatelle will pay $1.1 million to settle a wage theft lawsuit claiming that the restaurant misappropriated the tips of its food service employees and improperly used a tip credit to pay restaurant workers less than the minimum wage, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.  Bagatelle, the popular upscale French restaurant located in New York City’s Meatpacking District and self-described “NYC institution” is alleged to have required its food service workers, including servers, runners, bussers, and bartenders to share tips with tip ineligible employees, such as managers and silver polishers.   According to the lawsuit, brought by two servers who worked at the restaurant in 2015, when one of the servers asked his manager how much he had earned in tips on a particular night, he was referred to two different managers and never received an answer.

Attorneys for the workers also alleged that Bagatelle used a tip credit to pay its food service workers at the tipped minimum wage, despite failing to give them notice and requiring them to share tips with back of the house employees such as glass polishers and food expeditors.

The proposed settlement encompasses all servers, runners, bussers, and bartenders who worked at Bagatelle from January 1, 2012 to March 1, 2017.  It is estimated that the settlement will cover at least 100 workers and will be distributed in two categories: a. the amount of tips each worker received during his or her work period at Bagatelle, and b. a calculation based on total weeks worked.

EEOC Sues Ruby Tuesday For Age Discrimination

Ruby Tuesday EEOC age discrimination

Ruby Tuesday, a national casual dining restaurant chain, violated federal law by refusing to hire a qualified applicant at its Boca Raton, Fla., location because of his age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the restaurant declined to hire a qualified applicant with over 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry for a general manager position at its Boca Raton restaurant. In response to an inquiry by the applicant as to why Ruby Tuesday declined to hire him, the company informed him it was seeking a candidate who could “maximize longevity.”  According to the lawsuit, the applicant was 59 when he applied for the job, and the individual who got the job was 17 years younger.  Attorneys for the EEOC contend that the failure to hire the applicant violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

A spokesman for the EEOC said, “Age cannot be a factor in whether or not someone can earn a living.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was put in place precisely to protect people against this type of conduct. The bustling hospitality industry needs to be reflective of all of the members of our community.”

In 2013, Ruby Tuesday paid $575,000 to resolve another age discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of older restaurant workers in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Denny’s Restaurants Cheated Assistant Managers out of Overtime Wages According to New York lawsuit

Denny's overtime New York assistant managers

Denny’s restaurants paid Assistant Managers on a salary to avoid paying them overtime, according to a lawsuit filed in New York federal court. An Assistant Manager in Horseheads, New York alleges he worked 50 to 70 hours per week on average, but was not paid overtime compensation at time- and-a-half his regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 each week.  Instead, he says Denny’s paid Assistant Managers an annual salary regardless of the number of hours worked.

The lawsuit is directed at franchise FEAST American Diners LLC, which operates 17 Denny’s restaurants in New York.  Attorneys for the Assistant Manager claim that Assistant Managers at Denny’s had primary job duties that included preparing food, helping customers, bussing tables, cleaning the restaurant, labelling and rotating food product, and checking inventory.  The lawsuit alleges that the Assistant Managers did not exercise the responsibilities of a manager or use independent judgment and discretion in running the restaurants, as they did not hire, fire, discipline, or direct the work of other Denny’s employees.

The lawsuit claims that Denny’s restaurants did not provide labor budgets with enough money to cover all hours needed to complete the necessary manual labor tasks.  As a result, they contend Denny’s had knowledge that this underfunding led to Assistant Managers working more than 40 hours per week while mainly performing the overtime-eligible work tasks described above.  The lawsuit also alleges Denny’s failed to keep accurate time records, does not record all hours worked by Assistant Managers, and failed to post a notice explaining the minimum wage and overtime wage requirements anywhere in the restaurants.

This lawsuit continues a recent trend of restaurant workers alleging misclassification as Assistant Managers so they would be “exempt” from the FLSA requirement to receive overtime pay at time and a half for hours worked over forty in a workweek.  Other restaurants hit with lawsuits claiming Assistant Managers were paid a salary to avoid overtime pay include Cracker Barrel, Dunkin Donuts, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Jimmy John’s.

 

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