Gratuities

Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp

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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.

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

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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.

Happy National Waiters and Waitresses Day!

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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.

Banquet Hall Employees Sue the DoubleTree Hotel

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Banquet hall servers at the DoubleTree Hotel in Westchester, New York are suing for the hotel’s failure to pay minimum wages, overtime wages, spread-of-hours pay, unlawful deductions, and improper distribution of gratuities.

According to the collective action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, DoubleTree waiters were not paid for the overtime hours they worked. Employees regularly worked more than 60 hours per week but were only paid for 40 hours a week. Additionally, according to the Complaint, the hotel retained service charge payments made by customers even though they reasonably believed that money would be distributed as gratuities for the workers.  Furthermore, DoubleTree failed to reimburse its staff for the laundering and maintenance of their uniforms.

The suit also alleges that employees did not receive the minimum wage and “spread of hours” pay required under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law. Lawyers for the employees are seeking to recover their unpaid wages, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

Pizza Hut Delivery Driver Sues For Unpaid Service Charges And Overtime

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Pizza Hut is being sued by a former delivery driver for keeping all of the mandatory service charges it charged its customers and for unpaid overtime pay.

According to the lawsuit, filed on August 11 in Manhattan federal court, Pizza Hut charged its customers a mandatory $2.75 “delivery fee” for deliveries and misled its customers to believe the fee was a tip for its delivery drivers. As a result, delivery workers were often not paid tips directly from customers. However, Pizza Hut did not pay its delivery drivers any part of the delivery fees, allegedly violating New York labor laws. Under New York Labor Law, mandatory service charges that are purported to be gratuities belong to the employees.

The lawsuit also alleges that Pizza Hut violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay its delivery drivers the correct overtime pay for hours worked over forty because it did not include the delivery drivers’ share of the delivery fee into their regular wages.

Attorneys for the delivery drivers are seeking unpaid gratuities, unpaid overtime pay, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Four Seasons Hotel in Hawaii Pays $4 Million to Settle Tip Lawsuit

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A tip theft lawsuit filed by food and beverage workers at the Hawaii Four Seasons hotel has been settled for $4 million.  The lawsuit which challenged the hotel’s automatic deduction of gratuities left by patrons was approved by Judge Helen Gilmor after five years of litigation.

The Four Seasons hotel food and beverage service workers sued Four Seasons in 2008, alleging that the hotel kept portions of gratuity fees it automatically added to guests’ checks such as those added on bills for large parties.  In 2010, Judge Gillmor ruled that Four Seasons unlawfully retained service charges that should have been given to waiters, busboys, and other service staff.

This case highlights the unlawful practice of employers pocketing tips and gratuities meant for servers.  In New York, Section 196-d of the New York State Labor Law prohibits employers from demanding, accepting, or retaining, directly or indirectly, any part of an employee’s gratuity or any charge purported to be a gratuity. A charge purported to be a gratuity must be distributed in full as gratuities to the service employees or food service workers who provided the service.  For more information on the law, see the Hospitality Wage Order.

Waiterpay Founder Featured on Brooklyn TV

Louis Pechman, the founder of Waiterpay, was a featured guest on BK Live’s June 2, 2014 segment on Tipped Wages.  The segment focused on pay issues in New York City restaurants, including concerns about the increase in lawsuits for illegal pay practices.  Among the topics discussed were the differences between minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, the complicated set of laws involving the tip credit, spread of hours, and other worker rights issues.

Food Network Celebrity Willie Degel Agrees to Pay $900,000 to Settle Wage and Hour Lawsuit

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Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse and its owner, Food Network Celebrity Willie Degel, will pay $900,000 to settle a wage theft lawsuit filed against its restaurants located in Bayside, Queens and Midtown, New York City.  Ironically, Degel was featured on Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout, a show which followed Degel as he visited restaurants across the country with hidden cameras to capture their food service problems and attempted to fix them.

On May 22, 2014, Judge Loretta Preska, Chief United States District Court Judge in the Southern District of New York, approved a $900,000 settlement between the restaurants and its workers, who alleged that their worker rights were violated by the restaurant.  Approximately 239 restaurant workers who worked between September 2002 and September 2008 at the New York City and Queens restaurants are expected to benefit from the settlement.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2008 by captains, waiters, runners, bussers, and bartenders, alleged that the restaurants failed to pay them at the legally required minimum wage, routinely shaved their hours when they worked over 40 hours and refused to pay them overtime wages for hours worked over 40, misappropriated gratuities belonging to the waitstaff, failed to pay spread of hours pay when the employees’ workdays exceeded ten hours, and refused to pay for employee uniforms or laundering of such uniforms.

Peter Luger’s Steakhouse Settles Wage Lawsuit for $250,000

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Workers at Peter Luger’s, recognized by Zagat’s as the best steakhouse in New York, has agreed to a $250,000 settlement to resolve claims made against the Long Island location of the steakhouse for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York labor law violations, according to papers filed with the court.

Restaurant employees initially filed a complaint against the steakhouse in March 2013, alleging that the restaurant failed to pay them for all hours worked, specifically that the restaurant violated its workers’ rights by failing to pay proper overtime and minimum wages and spread-of-hours pay, and by maintaining an illegal tip pool.  The Complaint alleged that the management deducted $20.00 from the tip pool every day, which would then be given to the kitchen staff at the end of the year.

The workers have asked the Judge Wexler to approve the settlement and certify the proposed class, which would cover 62 employees who worked at the restaurant’s Great Neck location as servers, waitstaff, waiters, and bartenders.

TGI Friday’s Hit With Lawsuit For Tip Theft, Minimum Wage, and Other Labor Law Violations

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TGI Friday’s was hit with a lawsuit by its servers for violations of state and federal wage payment laws.  According to the lawyers for the workers, which include current and former servers, bussers, runners, bartenders, barbacks, hosts, and other tipped workers, the restaurant chain faces a national class action lawsuit as a result of the alleged violations of workers’ rights.

The Complaint, which was filed in federal court by four former TGI Friday’s workers from the New York metro area, alleges that the restaurant required tipped workers to arrive at work before their scheduled start time and to stay at work after the restaurant closed without receiving the minimum wages and overtime to which they were entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law (NYLL).

In addition, the workers allege that the restaurant shaved hours from employee time records and allowed employees to work off-the-clock to perform side work such as cleaning the restaurant, preparing food in bulk for customers, cutting produce, refilling condiments, and stocking and replenishing the bar and service areas.

The lawsuit seeks to recover minimum wages, overtime compensation, spread-of-hours pay, misappropriated tips, uniform-related expenses, unlawful deductions, and other wages for current and former workers at TGI Friday’s restaurants throughout the nation owned and/or operated by Carrollton, Texas-based Carlson Restaurants Inc., Carlson Restaurants Worldwide Inc., and TGI Friday’s Inc. nationwide.

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