Tip pooling was the topic of a recent Law 360 article that discussed the legal challenges the U.S. Department of Labor’s tip pooling rule could face. The tip pooling rule bars restaurants from requiring their wait staff to share tips with employees in the back of the house. The rule might be revisited in the wake of a new administration. Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com was quoted in the article discussing tip splitting by front and back of the house workers.
Two Johnny Rockets restaurants in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will pay 55 servers $571,460 for unpaid minimum wages, overtime and other damages. The judgment follows a Department of Labor investigation, which revealed that the restaurants required its servers to contribute a portion of their total tips back to the restaurant. Johnny Rockets then unlawfully distributed the servers’ tips to cooks and dishwashers. In addition, Johnny Rockets failed to pay the servers required overtime wages when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, and did not keep accurate records of all hours worked by employees.
Many restaurants require servers to pool their tips for workers to share equally. A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not receive tips customarily and regularly, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and janitors. When an employer utilizes employees’ tips for any purpose other than a valid tip pool, as was the case at Johnny Rockets, it is a violation of the tip credit provision of the FLSA. As a result, no tip credit may be claimed, and the employees are entitled to receive the full cash minimum wage on a retroactive basis, as well as a return of the tips that were misappropriated.
Chili’s policy of requiring servers to share their tips with expediters has been challenged in a federal court class action lawsuit. According to the wage theft lawsuit, Chili’s locations in New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio forced their servers to split tips with expediters. Expediters are individuals who generally work at or near the kitchen area traying food orders for pick-up by servers and who do not interact with restaurant customers.
The lawsuit alleges that Chili’s forces waiters and waitresses who regularly take orders and actually serve the restaurant’s customers to share their earned tips in a pool with expediters who do not interact with the customers at all. As a result, a percentage of the tips customers leave intended for their servers end up in the hands of the food expediters with whom customers neither communicate nor likely ever see.
The lawsuit claims this illegal tip sharing policy was uniformly applied throughout the forty-six Chili’s locations owned and operated by Quality Dining, Inc. The workers claim that as a result of this company wide policy, the restaurant has forfeited its right to take a tip credit under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Restaurant workers are suing Cosimo’s Italian Restaurant in Westfield, New Jersey for unpaid overtime wages in New Jersey federal court. Cooks, dishwashers, food preparation workers, and other back of house workers claim Cosimo’s illegally profited at the expense of their employees. Workers claim Cosimo’s was underpaying them “hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages” throughout the course of their employment. The kitchen workers claimed employees all worked at least approximately 57 to 60 hours per week and often worked long shifts totaling approximately 10 to 12 hours a day.
Cosimo’s paid back of house workers a set salary regardless of the number of hours that they actually worked, and therefore did not pay overtime. Further, it’s claimed that while Cosimo’s knew the failure to pay overtime wages to its workers at time-and-a-half their regular hourly rate would result in financial harm, they intentionally falsified time and pay records in order to evade the law. Attorneys for the former employees have asked that the District of New Jersey Court allow them to notify other former workers about joining the suit.
New York Daily News has reported that Wahlburgers, subject of the popular A&E reality show by the same name, is being sued by former employees for unpaid overtime and tip violations. The attorneys for the former restaurant workers in the case is Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com and Mitchell Schley.
The Department of Labor announced it signed a cooperative agreement with Subway, the world’s largest franchisor. The agreement boosts Subway’s compliance with labor laws, helping ensure that workers get paid the wages they are legally entitled.
The agreement with Subway breaks new ground in how the Department of Labor can work with the regulated community — not only with employers, but with franchisors, suppliers, retailers and others — to channel their influence to ensure that all employers along a supply chain or otherwise linked in commerce play by the rules. The agreement builds upon the Wage and Hour division’s ongoing work to provide technical assistance and training to Subway’s franchisees. It also provides an avenue for information-sharing where the Department of Labor will provide data about concluded investigations with Subway, and shares Subway’s data with the Department of Labor, generating creative problem solving and sparking new ideas to promote compliance.
When necessary, the franchisor will remind franchisees of the Wage and Hour Division’s authority to investigate their establishments and to examine records. The agreement also specifies that Subway may exercise its business judgment in dealing with a franchisee’s status within the brand, based upon any history of Fair Labor Standards Act violations. The agreement provides a model for exacting compliance, at scale, in an industry that has experienced problems.
The Department of Labor calls its collaboration with Subway a recipe for success, demonstrating how government and industry can work together to protect vulnerable workers and ensure a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
On the 80/20 issue, the Court found that although some waiters and waitresses tasks may be performed by untipped staff at other restaurants, it does not make them unrelated to their server duties. The Court noted that “the possibility that a few minutes a day were devoted to keeping the restaurant tidy does not require the restaurants to pay the normal minimum wage rather than the tip credit rate for those minutes.”
On the tip credit issue, the Court analyzed the requirements of §203(m) and explained “workers are entitled to knowledge about the tip credit program but not to a comprehensive explanation.” The Seventh Circuit’s take on the requirements for notification of the tip credit was threefold: “Three things are apt to matter most to employees at establishments such as these defendants: (a) in anticipation of tips the employer will pay less than the minimum wage; (b) how much the cash wage will fall short of the current minimum wage; and (c) if tips plus the cash wage do not at least match the current minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. We think that person told these things has been adequately “informed” for the purpose of the statute, during the time before the Department of Labor elaborated by regulation.”
Twelve restaurant workers employed by Scales 925, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia owned by Clifford Harris – the famous rapper formerly known as T.I. – are suing the Atlanta restaurant for minimum and overtime wage violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The wage theft lawsuit alleges that the waitstaff would routinely work more than 40 hours per week without being paid overtime and spent more than twenty percent of their time performing non-tipped tasks.
According to the lawsuit, waiters and waitresses were required to work off the clock for three hours before they were allowed to go home. The waitstaff complained to Scales 925 about not being paid overtime, but Scales 925 management ignored their complaints. In addition, the lawsuit claims the restaurant unlawfully deducted money from server’s paychecks for broken glasses, even if no glasses were broken. The restaurant also deducted money from servers’ paychecks supposedly to pay for busboys, which the busboys claimed they never received.
Las Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant in Astoria, was ordered to pay two former waitresses $41,618.08 for multiple wage violations under the Fair Labor Standard Act and New York Labor Law following a four-day trial and a jury verdict in favor of the waitresses. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak upheld the jury’s verdict which found that the restaurant failed to pay waitresses minimum wage, overtime, and improperly applied a tip credit towards their wages. Las Margaritas also violated New York Labor Law by failing to pay the waitresses a uniform allowance of $9.00 per week as well as making deductions from the waitresses’ pay or making them pay out of pocket if the cash register was short.
Servers and bartenders have united in a class action lawsuit against Shea’s American Bar and Grill for minimum wage violations and improper deductions under the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (“CMWA”). According to the worker’s lawsuit, servers and bartenders were required to perform non-tipped work at the beginning or end of their shifts, and even during their shifts. The lawsuit alleges the Restaurant did not keep a record of what time was spent performing non-tipped work in violation of the CMWA.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that Managers would clock out workers from the time keeping system, even though they were still working. It is alleged that the restaurant shaved workers’ hours worked by changing clock-in and/or clock-out times in the timekeeping system. Therefore, the servers and bartenders worked off the clock without pay and were not given overtime compensation for hours they worked past forty in a week.
The lawsuit further alleges that the restaurant took improper deductions from employee paychecks. The restaurant deducted a cost between $15-$20 for uniforms workers were required to wear which carried the restaurant logo. Penalties of at least $20 were also deducted from paychecks if the managers were not “satisfied” with a cleaning job by an employee. The restaurant even deducted customer bills from a server’s or bartender’s pay for those customers that “walked out”. Workers’ rights were violated as these deductions brought the workers’ wages below the minimum wage under the FLSA. This lawsuit seeks unpaid wages, liquidated damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees.