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Virginia Area Restaurants to Pay $3M in Back Wages and Damages to Workers

VIRGINIA AREA RESTAURANTS TO PAY $3 MILLION IN BACK WAGES AND DAMAGES TO WORKERS

Six Roanoke, Virginia area restaurants and their owners will pay $1.5 million in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, to 149 employees for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations. The settlement, which was entered into in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, is a result of a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation.

The Department of Labor’s investigation found that the restaurants willfully violated FLSA minimum wage and overtime provisions by only compensating servers through tips and not paying the federal minimum wage at one-and-one-half their regular rates of pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The restaurants also paid non-exempt kitchen staff – cooks, assistant cooks, and dishwashers – straight time for the overtime hours they worked. Investigators also found the restaurants violated the worker’s rights by failing to keep and maintain accurate records of the hours employees worked as required.

“This resolution secures proper compensation for these hard-working employees, and helps ensure that the law will be followed in the future,” said a representative for the Department of Labor. “The agreement recovers wages owed to employees for work performed years ago,” commented another representative.  “The outcome in this case positively impacts voluntary compliance in the food service industry in Virginia, and will level the competitive playing field for employers that comply with the law.”

Philadelphia Restaurants to Pay Employees Nearly $830,000 for Wage Violations

PHILADELPHIA RESTAURANTS TO PAY EMPLOYEES NEARLY $830,000 FOR WAGE VIOLATIONS

Two Philadelphia restaurants, Tierra Colombiana and Mixto, have agreed to pay 156 employees a total of $830,00 in back wages, liquidated damages and penalties to resolve federal wage theft violations.

An investigation conducted by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) found that Tierra Colombiana and Mixto violated the overtime, recordkeeping and minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Both restaurants are owned by Jorge Mosquera, and are operated by Jorge and Mercy Mosquera. “This resolution restores back wages rightfully earned by hard-working employees,” said a Department of Labor representative. “We encourage all employers to take advantage of the Department of Labor’s education and outreach efforts to help them understand their responsibilities and how to properly comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

The Department of Labor found that servers, bartenders, barbacks, runners, hostesses, kitchen chefs, and dishwashers regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, but were allegedly paid overtime hours worked at a rate of their regular hourly pay instead of at time-and-a-half as the FLSA requires.  The Department of Labor claims that the restaurants also failed to maintain required records and made some illegal deductions from employee wages by taking “breakage fees” out from workers’ paychecks, which resulted in some restaurant workers being paid less than the federal minimum wage. “This enforcement action will ensure that workers are paid for all of the hours they worked, and will go a long way in leveling the playing field for employers in the restaurant industry,” commented another representative.

The restaurants have agreed to comply with the FLSA in the future and protect the workers’ rights, including paying the proper overtime premium. The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (note that New York has a higher minimum wage) for all hours worked, plus time-and-one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses, and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week.  Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.

TGI Friday’s Settles Wage Theft Case for $19.1 Million

TGI Friday's Wage theft lawsuit

A nationwide wage theft lawsuit against TGI Friday’s has been settled for $19.1 million according to a court filing by the workers’ attorneys in New York federal court. The settlement, which covers 28,000 restaurant workers, is a record amount for resolution of a wage theft lawsuit in the restaurant industry. This settlement is the latest example of fast casual restaurants across the United States paying out millions of dollars on wage theft cases.

The lawsuit alleged that TGI Friday’s failed to pay its tipped hourly food service workers the proper minimum wage, overtime pay, and misappropriated tips. Attorneys for the servers, bussers, runners, bartenders, barbacks and hosts, claimed that TGI Friday’s failed to satisfy the strict requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”) that would allow them to pay a reduced minimum wage rate to tipped employees. In particular, TGI Friday’s had a policy and practice that required tipped employees to spend over two hours and/or in excess of 20% of their work shift performing non-tip producing “side work.” Side work included, general cleaning of the restaurant, preparing food in bulk for customers, cutting produce, refilling condiments, and stocking and replenishing the bar and service areas. According to attorneys for the workers, this practice violated the “80/20 rule” and TGI Friday’s should have paid the tipped employees the full minimum wage rate, rather than reduced tipped minimum wage rate.

The front of the house workers also alleged that TGI Friday’s required them to perform “off the clock” work for which they were never compensated. “Off the clock” work consisted of requiring them to arrive at the restaurant one hour before customer service to perform side work, requiring them to punch in after they got their first table, and punch out before they performed closing side work. As a result of these practices, workers were not compensated for all the hours they worked and when they worked over forty hours per workweek, they were not paid overtime pay. Furthermore, the lawsuit claimed that TGI Friday’s required tips to be distributed to employees who are not entitled to tips under the FLSA and/or NYLL such as, silverware rollers and expeditors. Additionally, workers were given only one uniform, which TGI Friday’s failed to launder or pay workers the statutory uniform allowance. Finally, TGI Friday’s was accused of making unlawful deductions from employee wages for customer walkouts.

If approved, the settlement would resolve a nationwide class action brought by more than a dozen workers, alleging violations of the FLSA and claims brought under the labor or unfair competition laws of nine states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.

 

Indian Restaurant Ordered to Pay $1.4 million to Five Restaurant Workers for Wage Violations

Indus Valley wage violations

Indus Valley Restaurant, an Indian restaurant on the Upper West Side, has been ordered by a New York Judge to pay $1.4 million in back pay and damages to five former restaurant workers for wage violations.

Indus Valley, now closed, was accused by the workers of failing to pay minimum wage, overtime, and spread of hours pay as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. The workers who sued the restaurant included two cooks, a food runner, a waiter, and a busboy. The workers, who regularly worked up to seventy-two hours per week, were each paid a fixed weekly salary, rather than an hourly wage. They did not receive overtime payment when they worked over forty hours in a workweek.  Three of the employees are also owed unpaid minimum wages.

The decision follows an inquest at which the employees gave sworn testimony about their weekly schedules and payments from Indus Valley.  The owners failed to appear and were held in default by the Court.  Indus Valley is ordered to pay $1,412,318.66 plus interest, for unpaid wages, liquidated and statutory damages. Laura Rodriguez, an associate at Pechman Law Group, was lead attorney on this case.

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.

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.

Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp

New York City Bar Association Logo

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.

Maine Fish Market to Pay $750,000 in Back Wage to Employees

Maine Fish Market Restaurante Logo

Maine Fish Market, a popular seafood restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut, paid $750,000 in back wages to approximately 70 employees for unpaid wages and tip theft violations. The class action lawsuit alleged that Maine Fish Market neglected to pay the federal minimum wage to its servers and bartenders and failed to pay overtime wages to the restaurant’s kitchen workers. In addition, servers claim they were unlawfully required to pay for breakages, customer walkouts, and uniforms. The restaurant also took ten to fifteen percent of each servers’ tips on a daily basis and allegedly used this money to pay other employees’ wages. As per the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, employers are not entitled to any of the tips earned by servers.

The employees were represented by Louis Pechman and Laura Rodriguez of Pechman Law Group PLLC, as well as by William Madsen of Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau LLC.

Restaurant Workers Get 2017 Pay Hike

back of house cooks

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.

Owners of Charleston Area Restaurants to Pay Nearly $1.2M in Back Wages and Damages

department of labor stamp

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the owners of 13 Charleston, South Carolina area restaurants violated minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Under the FLSA, employers are allowed to take a “tip credit” and pay tipped employees below the full federal minimum wage per hour if the employees will make at least minimum wage after keeping their tips.  To legally apply the tip credit, a restaurant must ensure that all tips received by tipped employees are retained by the employees (unless there is a valid tip pooling arrangement). In the present case, the employer required servers to give a percentage of their tips back to them and compelled three servers to work for only tips. The restaurant owners also required workers at some locations to purchase their uniforms, which reduced their earnings below the minimum wage.

The investigation also found that the employer failed to pay cooks, dishwashers and runners for all hours worked, resulting in these employees not earning minimum wage for all hours worked. Furthermore, these workers did not receive overtime pay of time-and-one-half for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Lastly, the owners failed to keep legally mandated time and attendance records.

Judge C. Weston Houck, of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, approved a consent judgment between the department and the owners, who will pay a total of $1,179,045 to 119 employees, which includes $589,523 in back wages and an additional equal amount in liquidated damages for all affected employees who worked at any of the 13 restaurants from Aug. 13, 2011 to Dec. 13, 2014.

 

 

 

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