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.
A U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation found that Junior’s Supper Club, an Oklahoma City fine dining institution open since 1973, violated the minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Department of Labor (DOL) investigation revealed that Junior’s failed to combine hours worked by employees who performed more than one job duty at the restaurant (i.e., server and busser) during a workweek. As a result, the restaurant failed to recognize when these employees worked more than 40 hours in a week and did not pay them overtime as required by the FLSA. The DOL investigation also found that Junior’s illegally deducted time from worker’s pay when no work was available (i.e., no customers in restaurant), although employees were ready to serve. This resulted in minimum wage and overtime violations for the unpaid time. In addition, the DOL investigation disclosed that Junior’s did not keep accurate records of the total number of hours employees worked in a week, a recordkeeping violation under the FLSA.
In settlement of the wage theft claims, Junior’s paid a total of $52,487 to nine workers and agreed to keep accurate records and comply with all provisions of the FLSA in the future.
“Restaurant workers are among the most vulnerable workers we see in Oklahoma,” said a DOL representative. “If an employer requires workers to be ready to serve customers whenever they walk in, the employer must pay workers for the times when there may be no customers in the facility. These workers depend on every penny they rightfully earn; cheating them out of overtime has a tremendous impact on them and their families. The resolution of this case signals the division’s commitment to protecting restaurant workers, and leveling the playing field for employers who pay their workers legally.”
Workers at Sushi Samba restaurant locations in New York, Florida, Las Vegas and Illinois will receive $2.37 million as a result of a lawsuit, filed by former servers, bussers, runners, and bartenders, alleging improper application of the tip credit, failure to pay minimum wages, overtime pay and other federal and state wage violations.
Sushi Samba, a popular chain of sushi restaurants blending Brazilian, Japanese, Peruvian influences, with nationwide and international locations is alleged to have paid its waitstaff the tipped minimum wage without providing adequate notice as well as improperly allocating 5% of the waitstaff’s tips to sushi chefs. Attorney’s for the waitstaff alleged that the sushi chefs had no interaction with customers and therefore should not have received tips. Employees at certain locations also reported that they were required to work off the clock and that Sushi Samba hosted private parties whereby a 20% service charge was added to the total price paid by customers, but not distributed to the waitstaff in its entirety.
The proposed settlement, which covers over 500 workers, was submitted for preliminary approval to Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on November 30, 2015.
A pattern of discrimination against Latino workers at Haru Resturant has been alleged in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court.
Haru is a chain of Japanese restaurants that employs 1,000 Hispanic employees as bussers and runners. According to the class action lawsuit, management refused to promote runner Richard Martinez to waiter even though he was more than qualified for the job, Martinez claims that it is common for managerial staff to promote non-Hispanic bussers and runners to waiters over their more experienced Hispanic counterparts. In addition to not being experiences, Martinez says some of the new hires were also not fluent in English. Furthermore, management would ask him to train new waiters because he was most knowledgeable about the menus. When Martinez complained about the discrimination, management retaliated by reducing the hours he worked.
Martinez is suing on behalf of all the Hispanic employees who have experienced discrimination in Haru Restaurants in the last three years. Attorneys for the workers seek to vindicate the civil rights of the Hispanic employees and recover economic and compensatory damages, under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York City Human Rights Law, and the New York State Human Rights Law.
One of the world’s best chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has been hit with a wage theft lawsuit by a server at his restaurant “The Inn at Pound Ridge.“ The lawsuit, filed in New York federal court by Joshua Fine, a server at the restaurant, alleges that the restaurant failed to pay the minimum wage, shaved hours, misappropriated tips, failed to provide notice of a tip credit, failed to provide wage notices and failed to pay the servers overtime. The lawsuit further alleges that Mr. Fine was fired in retaliation for complaining about these illegal wage practices.
According to attorneys for the workers, waitstaff were required to share part of their tips with non-tipped employees, including two expediters and a utilities worker. In addition, the servers were required to clock out for breaks they never took. The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of all front-of-the-house tipped employees, including bussers, runners and servers.
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.
Servers and bussers have been denied overtime pay and spread of hours pay at Water’s Edge Restaurant in Long Island City, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court.
The lawsuit against Water’s Edge Restaurant claims that the restaurant failed to pay the workers time and a half for their hours worked over 40 in a week. The lawsuit also claims that the restaurant did not pay employees New York’s “spread of hours” premium for each day they worked over 10 hours.
Lawyers for the workers have filed the wage lawsuit as a class action on behalf of approximately 50 of the restaurant’s employees. The wage lawsuit seeks backpay, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees.
A waiter at Le Cirque restaurant, recognized as one of the best restaurants in New York City, has filed a class action complaint in Manhattan federal court on behalf of all front of the house employees, other than captains, employed at the restaurant since September 17, 2008.
The lawsuit alleges that the restaurant violated the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law when it paid service employees a reduced tipped minimum wage rate without adhering to the laws’ requirements by which it could take the “tip credit.” Attorneys for the workers claim that the restaurant should not have paid the workers the federal tipped minimum wage because the restaurant allowed captains, who were managerial employees, to share in the tips, and also failed to adequate notice of the tip credit to the service employees.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers are allowed to take a “tip credit” and pay waiters, bussers, and bartenders below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. (Note: minimum wage in New York is now $8.00 per hour). For example, the “tip credit” for waitstaff in New York is currently $3.00 per hour, meaning that waiters, busboys, and bartenders can be paid an hourly minimum wage of $5.00 per hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act only allows employers to take this tip credit when the employees have been informed of the tip credit provisions of that law, and when the worker is allowed to retain all of the tips that he receives or is only required to share his tips with other workers who also customarily and regularly receive tips, such as servers, busboys, runners and bartenders.
The complaint against the restaurant alleges that the captains had authority to set schedules, discipline employees, grant or deny vacation requests, interview prospective employees, run pre-shift meetings, control station assignments, and recommend employees for hire, fire, and promotions.
The case against Le Cirque seeks back wages, penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs. This is the second lawsuit brought against Le Cirque for wage violations. Waiters who staffed private parties sued in 2009 over the restaurant’s retention of a mandatory service charge of as much as 20% paid on private parties.