Wage and Hour

California Buffet Restaurant To Pay $128k To Resolve Allegations Of Minimum Wage and Overtime Violations


A minimum wage and overtime lawsuit against Hibachi City Buffet was settled for $128,335. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved a judgment ordering the Palm City, California restaurant and owners to pay 44 employees $90,000 in back wages, in addition to $38,335 in penalties. The court also prohibited Hibachi City Buffet from retaliating or taking any adverse employment action against any worker who exercises or asserts their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that Hibachi City Buffet violated the minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the FLSA. They found the employees – cooks, dishwashers and servers – worked more than 60 hours per workweek on average, yet the employer paid a fixed salary, without regard to the number of hours employees worked. Minimum wage violations resulted when those salaries failed to cover all the hours employees worked at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Overtime violations occurred when workers exceeded 40 hours in a week, yet the employer still paid workers only their fixed salaries. Hibachi City Buffet also failed to keep time records showing how many hours employee worked, or how much they paid employees, as the law requires.

“Vulnerable restaurant employees are often reluctant to complain when their employer fails to pay them the wages they’ve earned,” said Danny Pasquil, district director for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in West Covina. “We urge all employees who are not paid legally to step forward. Cheating workers out of their hard-earned wages is illegal. As this consent judgment illustrates, we will continue to use every available tool, including asking the courts to step in, to ensure that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

Astoria Restaurant Ordered to Pay Waitresses for Wage Violations

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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.

The waitresses were represented by Vivianna Morales and Lou Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com.

The Real-Soprano’s “Bada Bing!” Strip Club Sued for Wage Law Violations


The New Jersey strip club used for Tony Soprano’s “Bada Bing!” club in the hit TV series “The Sopranos,” in addition to another club under the same owner, was hit with a class action lawsuit by its former employees. It is alleged that Satin Dolls and The Harem were illegally retaining private dancers’ tips and failing to pay them minimum wage by deducting “house fees” from their wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and New Jersey Wage Laws (“NJWL”).

The entertainers allege in their lawsuit that Satin Dolls and The Harem required customers to tip dancers during private or VIP dances. However, the dancers did not retain the entirety of their tips. For example, if a customer tipped $300 for a private dance, the strip club would retain approximately $150, even though customers believed that the dancers were keeping 100% of the tips. In addition, entertainers were required to share their tips with managers, including the “house mom”, the DJ, and security personnel through mandatory tipouts at the end of each shift.

The entertainer’s rights were also violated under the FLSA and NJWL due to the clubs’ policy requiring dancers to pay “fines,” “fees,” and “miscellaneous improper surcharges,” bringing their pay not only below the minimum wage, but to a negative wage. “House fees” collected prior to each shift would amount from $30-$80 depending on the night. Attorneys for the entertainers are seeking to recover unpaid wages, illegally retained tips, illegal deductions from wages, and other penalties from the respective clubs.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Miller’s Ale House for Wage Theft

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Miller’s Ale House locations in Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, and Staten Island, have been sued by former servers in a class action lawsuit for unpaid minimum wages and unpaid spread-of-hours pay. The wage theft lawsuit also claims that Miller’s Ale House improperly applied a tip credit, where servers were required to perform regular non-tipped work for more than twenty percent of their workday in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”).

According to the lawsuit, the waiters and waitresses were required to complete non-tipped “side work” at the beginning of their shift. This “side work” took at least one and a half hours to complete. The non-tipped “side work” included, but was not limited to, making dressings, cleaning and setting tables, dusting ceiling fans, preparing food, preparing and cleaning soda machines. Even though servers’ responsibilities included non-tipped work at the beginning and end of their shifts for more than an hour and a half, Miller’s still claimed a tip credit. Therefore, the servers were being paid at hourly rates below the standard minimum wage at $5.00 per hour. Under the NYLL, the servers were also owed “spread-of-hours” pay for worked shifts that spread over ten or more hours in a single day.

The attorneys for the restaurant workers are seeking to recover unpaid minimum wages owed to the waiters and waitresses for improperly claiming a tip credit towards their obligation to pay the statutory minimum wage rate under the FLSA and NYLL, as well as, unpaid spread-of- hours pay under the NYLL.




Connecticut Restaurant Sued in Class Action Lawsuit for Wage Theft

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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.

Joe’s Crab Shack Eliminates Its “No Tipping” Policy

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Joe’s Crab Shack announced that it would restore tipping at most of their no tipping locations less than a year after adopting the highly criticized “no tipping policy” at their restaurant chain. Created with the intention of moving away from an antiquated gratuity model, Joe’s Crab Shack became the first national chain to eliminate tipping from their restaurants when they applied the “no tipping policy” to 18 of their restaurants.

The restaurant’s research showed that about 60% of customers disliked the policy because it took away incentive for good service and that they didn’t necessarily trust that management is passing along the money to workers. The feedback from the customers of Joe’s Crab Shack is consistent with the results of a survey held by WaiterPay.com which revealed that a majority of servers were against no tipping policies. The WaiterPay survey revealed that waiters and waitresses believed that “no tipping” policies would negatively affect the pay they earned and decrease they quality of customer service.


Popular French Restaurant in Meat Packing District Sued For Wage Theft

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Servers who worked at Bagatelle, a French bistro in Manhattan’s Meat Packing District known for its outlandish brunches, have sued for wage violations.

The workers’ lawsuit alleges that the restaurant paid its servers at a “tipped minimum wage rate,” but that they did not satisfy the strict requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act or New York Labor Law, that would allow them to pay a reduced minimum wage, otherwise known as taking a “tip credit.” Specifically, Bagatelle did not give its servers proper notification of the tip credit, which is a prerequisite to their ability to use such credit. In addition, the workers allege that Bagatelle retained and misappropriated waiters’ tips by requiring them to share tips with tip ineligible employees, such as captains/managers and silver polishers.

The class action wage lawsuit filed by the waiters also allege that Bagatelle required its servers to purchase aprons and white shirts that bore the restaurants insignia, which could be neither washed nor dry-cleaned. Waiters were forced to replace the aprons by Bagatelle at their own expense at a rate of $35 per apron. The server’s uniform also required daily dry cleaning, specifically the shirt’s banded collars and French cuffs, for which the restaurant did not reimburse the servers. Each shirt cost about $25 and servers had to incur uniform purchase and maintenance expenses, who were already compensated at rates below the FLSA and New York State minimum wage.






McDonald’s to Pay New York Workers $1.5 Million for Uniform Maintenance Violations

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McDonald’s will pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that its restaurants failed to pay workers uniform maintenance pay and did not compensate them for time spent cleaning and pressing their uniforms.

The lawsuit, filed in New York federal court in March 2014, was brought against McDonald’s locations in New York State.   Attorneys for the restaurant workers alleged that McDonald’s imposed cleanliness standards on its workers but failed to provide employees with mandated uniform maintenance payments required by New York law or pay them for the time spent keeping the uniforms clean.   McDonalds denied liability, claiming that it provided workers with sufficient number of uniform’s that could be washed with other clothes.

The settlement covers an estimated 10,400 hourly non-managerial workers who worked at McDonald’s restaurants in New York State from March 13, 2008 through May 10, 2016.   Each class member will receive a settlement payment calculated in accordance with a distribution formula based on the number of workweeks and hours worked during the covered period.

Workers Sue for Wage Theft at Long Island Dunkin Donuts Locations

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Employees at Dunkin Donuts locations on Long Island were cheated out of their wages, according to a lawsuit filed by the workers’ attorneys in New York Federal Court. According to the wage theft lawsuit, Dunkin Donuts workers at several Long Island stores routinely worked 70 – 90 hours a week, but were never paid for all the hours they worked. The workers were constantly subject to time shaving and routinely required to work off the clock, and therefore deprives of minimum wage and overtime pay required under the labor laws.

According to the wage theft lawsuit, Dunkin Donuts consistently failed to pay workers the number of hours recorded on their time cards. In addition, workers were ordered to work at other Dunkin Donuts stores when they completed their shifts and were forced to either not clock in there or clock in under former employees’ names. Employees were not paid for this work, sometimes as many as 30 extra hours a week. Furthermore, the Complaint contends that the two workers who filed the lawsuit were threatened when they complained to management about these illegal practices and were terminated in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Department of Labor.

The workers’ wage lawsuit alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law. Attorneys for the workers are seeking lost wages, liquidated damages, penalties, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

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

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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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