The New York City Bar Association will hold the CLE program “Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp” on March 24. The program will focus on the corporate, real estate, liquor license, and labor/employment issues involved in opening a restaurant in New York City. Speakers on the panel include Jack Gordon, partner at Kent, Beatty & Gordon LLP; Carolyn Richmond, partner at Fox Rothschild LLP; Sonal Shah, General Counsel of Ark Restaurant Group; Alex Victor, partner at Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron LLP; and Larry A. Welch, Associate at Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP. Lou Pechman will be chairing the event. For more information on the program please visit the event page.
On December 31, 2016, restaurant workers throughout New York State will begin to see changes in the payment structure of their wages.
Back of the House Workers
Back of the house workers (cooks, dishwashers, stockers, and others without direct customer contact) will receive an increase from the current minimum wage rate of $9.00/hour beginning December 31, 2016, according to the following specifications:
|New York City – Large Employers (with 11 or more employees):||$11.00|
|New York City – Small Employers (with 10 or fewer employees):||$10.50|
|Long Island & Westchester:||$10.00|
|Remainder of New York State:||$9.70|
Front of the House Workers
New York State law allows employers in all industries, except building service and fast food, to satisfy payment of the minimum wage by combining a “cash wage” paid by the employer with a credit or allowance for tips that the employee receives from customers. For example, employers in the Hospitality Industry could satisfy the 2016 minimum wage of $9.00 by combining a cash wage of at least $7.50 with a tip allowance of no less than $1.50 per hour. Employers need only pay a cash wage of $7.50/hour to workers, so long as the employees receive at least $1.50/hour from customers in tips.
Beginning on December 31, 2016, tipped front of the house restaurant workers (servers, bussers, bartenders, hosts, hostesses, and others with direct customer contact) will still be required to receive the same 2016 minimum hourly wage rate of $7.50/hour from their employers. However, as of December 31, 2016, tipped restaurant workers must receive at least the following amount in tips per hour in order for employers to use the tip credit:
|New York City – Large Employers (with 11 or more employees):||$3.50|
|New York City – Small Employers (with 10 or fewer employees):||$3.00|
|Long Island & Westchester:||$2.50|
|Remainder of New York State:||$2.20|
Fast Food Workers
Additionally, restaurant workers in the fast food industry will see an increase in hourly wage rates. Employees who qualify for this increase include any person working at a fast food establishment whose job duties include at least one of the following: customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, or routine maintenance.
On December 31, 2016, the minimum hourly wage rates for all fast food workers will increase according to the following specifications:
|New York City:||$12.00|
|Rest of the State:||$10.75|
For more information about your rights as a restaurant worker, take a look at our Top 10 Restaurant Pay Violations.
A Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Columbus, Ohio will pay $1.4 million to settle a class sexual harassment suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC had charged the restaurant with victimizing a group of female employees as young as 17 years old by subjecting them to sexual harassment and then retaliating against them for complaining.
According to EEOC’s lawsuit, the manager of the restaurant in the Reynoldsburg section of Columbus, Eric Price, harassed women and teen girls working in server, hostess and other front-of-the-house positions. In the suit, EEOC identified 12 victims of his abuse who suffered unwelcome touching, humiliating remarks about their and other females’ bodies and sexuality, and pressure for sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits or as a condition of avoiding adverse employment action. EEOC charged that the harassment began in 2007, continued for over three and a half years until the manager was fired in May 2011, and was coupled with retaliation against employees who opposed the abuse.
Although the companies’ owners and individuals with high-level authority received multiple complaints about the manager’s abusive conduct throughout his employment, they failed to take prompt, effective action to put a stop to the abuse, EEOC said. Price was not fired until May 2011, when he was seen on a surveillance video touching a 17-year-old female employee in his office at the restaurant during work hours, the agency charged.
Harassment and discrimination based on sex violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also forbids employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against an employee because she complained about discriminatory conduct. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. East Columbus Host, LLC d/b/a Texas Roadhouse and Ultra Steak, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-1696) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On Sept. 2, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham issued an order denying East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak’s motion for summary judgment on EEOC’s sexual harassment claims. He found that EEOC had presented sufficient evidence to overcome the motion. In rejecting the employers’ argument that they had established an affirmative defense because some of Price’s victims allegedly delayed or failed to complain, Judge Graham held that questions remained regarding the companies’ efforts to stop any sexually harassing behavior.
Referring to evidence that previous complaints had been made against the restaurant manager, the court noted that EEOC had described a pattern of complaints, including evidence that “less than a month into his tenure, Price made sexual remarks to … [a] high school-aged hostess … [who] did complain, and the only response she got was not from the corporate office, but from the very person she feared: Eric Price,” who told her “not to get other people involved if she had a problem.” A jury, Judge Graham held, “could see this as the first failure in a long line of tepid responses in the face of near-constant complaints, bookended by sexual harassment of teenage girls.” The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that EEOC had failed to conciliate its claims against them as required by Title VII.
In addition to the $1.4 million in monetary relief to the victims, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires the companies to offer reinstatement to injured women identified by EEOC in agreed locations and positions. The decree prohibits the companies from rehiring the offending manager.
The decree further requires East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak to put in place an electronic recordkeeping system to track all gender discrimination and retaliation complaints of any kind and includes mandatory reporting of any allegedly discriminatory or retaliatory adverse employment action, such as failure to hire or promote.
Further, the companies must provide training to all employees on discrimination and retaliation. Supervisory, management, and human resources personnel are to be trained on their duty to monitor the work environment; how to receive and investigate complaints of harassment or discrimination; and how to respond to complaints effectively with corrective action. East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak also are required to report to EEOC on how they handle any internal complaints of gender discrimination or retaliation, and they must post a notice about the settlement at all restaurants covered by the decree.
EEOC recently updated its [email protected] website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/), which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination. The website also contains curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities in the workforce.
Today is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. To commemorate, check out this blog about the top ten wage violations in the restaurant industry written by waiterpay.com founder Louis Pechman, featured on the Huffington Post.
Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft sandwich restaurants have been hit with a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, claiming that the restaurants failed to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, and misappropriated workers’ tips.
Attorneys representing a group of baristas, bartenders, porters, delivery persons, cooks, food preparers, hosts, and cashiers, claim that ‘Wichcraft failed to pay employees the proper overtime premiums at the rate of one and one half times the regular rate for work in excess of forty hours per workweek, as required both by the Federal Labor Standard Act and New York Labor Law. The attorneys also claim that ‘Wichcraft paid employees at an invalid “tip credit” minimum wage and did not provide employees a tip credit notice, as required by State law. According to the lawsuit, ‘Wichcraft illegally retained gratuities, improperly deducted meal allowances, and made employees pay for their uniform maintenance.
The wage theft lawsuit against ‘Wichcraft seeks compensation for unpaid wages, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a restaurant worker rights advocacy group has been accused of misconduct. In an opinion piece published in the New York Post, Mike Paranzing accused the ROC of being a labor union front that doesn’t practice what it preaches. Acccording to Paranzing, ROC exploited its own workers and cheated its employees at the restaurant Colors, and is guilty of the same labor abuses and health violations that it has leveled against other restaurants.
The tip splitting policy of Starbucks coffee shops in New York was reviewed by the New York Court of Appeals in a decision that was issued yesterday.
In the Starbucks case, the New York Court of Appeals explained that employer-mandated tip splitting should be limited to employees who, like waiters and busboys, are ordinarily engaged in personal customer service, a rule that comports with the “expectations of the reasonable customer.”
The Court held that “an employee whose personal service to patrons is a principal or regular part of his or her duties may participate in an employer-mandated tip allocation arrangement under Labor Law § 196-d, even if that employee possesses limited supervisory responsibilities. But an employee granted meaningful authority or control over subordinates can no longer be considered similar to waiters and busboys within the meaning of section 196-d and, consequently, is not eligible to participate in a tip pool.”
Attorneys for workers and restaurants should take careful note of this decision as it is the best explanation of the law to date by a court on the important issue of managers participating in a restaurant tip pool.