Tips

Rosa Mexicano Reaches $3.6 Million Settlement with Servers for Tip Violations and Overtime

rosa mexicano overtime pay lawsuit tip theft

Rosa Mexicano has agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit alleging that the upscale Mexican restaurant chain failed to pay its waitstaff minimum and overtime wages and misappropriated tips.  The settlement agreement covers an estimated 3,500 employees at twelve locations in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Minneapolis.

The restaurant workers filed the lawsuit suit in New York federal court in July of 2016, arguing Rosa Mexicano claimed an invalid tip credit and improperly paid their waitstaff at a tipped minimum wage instead of the full minimum wage. The waitstaff claims in their lawsuit that Rosa Mexicano did not inform them they would be paid at tipped minimum wage and misappropriated their tips, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”). Tips were shared with “floaters”, who conducted miscellaneous tasks around the restaurant without ever having customer contact. According to the lawsuit, these “floaters” were not entitled to sharing in a tip pool, invalidating Rosa Mexicano’s tip credit.  The wage theft lawsuit also claimed that Rosa Mexicano did not pay waitstaff for hours worked over forty per week. Some former servers claimed to work up to 50 hours per week without receiving overtime pay. The lawsuit also alleges that waitresses, waiters, bussers, and bartenders did not receive “call-in pay” required under NYLL, when they reported for work only to be sent home before being able to work three hours. One of the former workers claims this happened on 146 shifts.  For these violations, the employees sought to recover unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime wages, unpaid “call-in pay”, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

The attorneys for the restaurant workers are by Fitapelli & Schaffer, a New York law firm. The settlement is subject to approval by United States Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

 

 

Department of Labor Rescinds Tip Pooling Rule

tip tip pooling tip theft

The United States Department of Labor announced that it will revoke an Obama-era regulation prohibiting restaurants from pooling customers tips with back-of-the-house workers.  Although this change could have a significant impact in many areas of the country, New York State still has restrictions on who can participate in a tip pool.

The Legal History

Unless state laws require higher amounts, as is the case in New York State, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a federal law, requires employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour worked.  The FLSA allows restaurants to pay employees who regularly receive tips as little as $2.13 per hour if they make the difference (i.e., $5.12) per hour in tips.  The $5.12 difference is known as a “tip credit,” which is a privilege that the FLSA gives to restaurants.  The FLSA also allows restaurants to require tip-receiving employees to pool their tips for distribution among employees.

Before 2011, there was much debate about which employees could participate in a restaurant’s mandatory tip pool.  Some courts concluded that only employees who regularly receive tips and who spend at least 80% of their time serving customers at tables, known as “food service employees,” could participate in a tip pool.  These courts concluded that if a restaurant forced food service employees to share their tips with non-service employees, such as cooks or other back-of-the-house employees, then the restaurant violated the FLSA and had to pay back tips and other wages to the food service employees.  Other courts reached the opposite conclusion.  They reasoned that any employee should be allowed to participate in the mandatory tip pool as long as the restaurant did not take a tip credit and, instead, paid its employees the full minimum wage rate ($7.25 under federal law, but higher under New York State law).

In 2011, the US Department of Labor enacted a regulation that back-of-the-house employees cannot participate in a tip pool with front-of-the-house food service employees regardless of whether the restaurant takes a tip credit. The 2011 regulation mirrors the New York Labor Law and the New York State Department of Labor’s Hospitality Wage Order, which limit tip pooling to food service employees only.  In New York, back-of-the-house employees can never participate in a mandatory tip pool with front-of-the-house food service employees.

The Recent Change and Effect in New York

Under the Trump Administration, the US Department of Labor has announced that it will revoke the 2011 regulation.  The effect of this revocation is that in many areas of the country, but not in New York, restaurants that do not take a tip credit can require front-of-the-house employees to share their tips with any other restaurant employee.  Note that, restaurants that take a tip credit against front-of-the-house food service employees still cannot require them to share their tips with back-of-the-house workers.

These changes at the federal level have no impact in New York, whose laws and regulations already require that tips left by customers be given to front-of-the-house employees.  Under New York laws, food service employees can be required to share their tips only with other food service employees.   For example, a tip pool in a New York restaurant is lawful if it is composed of non-managerial bartenders, servers, bussers, and runners.  However, it would be unlawful for a New York restaurant to require servers and bartenders to share tips with a cook or manager.

“Best Restaurant in America” To Pay $2 million to Settle Tip Theft Lawsuit

Blue HIll tip theft lawsuit

Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant has agreed to pay its waitstaff $2 million to settle an unpaid wages and tip theft  lawsuit.

Recognized by Eater as the Best Restaurant in America for its locally-sourced farm-to-table cuisine, Blue Hill at Stone Barn and its sister restaurant in Manhattan was sued by two former servers in 2016 on behalf of themselves and all servers, bussers, bartenders, runners, and hosts and hostesses.  In their lawsuit, the servers claimed that Blue Hill required them to share their tips with expeditors, who were kitchen employees that did not interact with the restaurant’s customers.  The servers argued that this tip pooling system was unlawful.  Under the law, waitstaff should not be required to share their tips with restaurant employees who do not interact with customers, such as kitchen employees.

Attorneys for the workers also claimed that whenever there was a private event or banquet at Blue Hill, the restaurant led customers to believe that the “service” or “administrative” fee that they paid was a tip that would be distributed to the waitstaff.  According to the servers, Blue Hill unlawfully pocketed all service charges that customers paid, even though those amounts should have been given to the waitstaff as tips.

The wage theft lawsuit claimed that Blue Hill did not pay them minimum wages, as required under New York State law.  Because Blue Hill required the waitstaff to share tips with kitchen employees, like expeditors, in an unlawful tip pool, the restaurant could not pay waitstaff at a reduced minimum wage rate and take a tip credit.  Normally, if a restaurant meets several legal requirements, it may pay employees who regularly receive tips at a reduced hourly wage rate.  The restaurant loses this privilege if it pockets any part of the waitstaff’s tips or creates an unlawful tip pool.  For this reason, the servers claimed that they were owed the difference between the reduced hourly rates they were paid and the full minimum wage rates in New York.

Since the settlement, Blue Hill has eliminated tipping at its restaurants, a growing trend among New York restaurants.

 

SUBWAY Restaurant Settles Overtime Pay Lawsuit

subway overtime pay tip theft

A SUBWAY restaurant located in Times Square has paid $42,500 to a sandwich preparer to settle a lawsuit alleging that the popular sandwich chain did not pay him overtime pay, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.  The lawsuit was filed against the individual franchise restaurant, as well as the SUBWAY corporation.

The sandwich preparer, also referred to within the Company as a “sandwich artist,” alleged that he worked up to 60 hours per week making sandwiches and preparing toppings, and was not paid overtime pay.  The lawsuit also alleged that a store manager regularly took tips from a tip jar meant for the sandwich preparers.  Federal and New York State law provides that an employer must pay overtime pay to its non-exempt employees, and that employers may not take a share of gratuities left by customers to food service employees.  The sandwich artist also claimed that SUBWAY did not give him required wage notices and correct wage statements.

This is not the first time that SUBWAY has been hit with a wage lawsuit.  In fact, as of 2014, SUBWAY restaurants violated the wage payment laws more than any other fast food restaurant.  Indeed, in July 2016, SUBWAY entered into a SUBWAY Agreement with USDOLwith the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division to promote and achieve compliance with labor laws.

Vivianna Morales, an attorney with Pechman Law Group, was the lead attorney on behalf of the worker at SUBWAY.

New York City’s Pier A Banquet Hall Hit with Tip Sharing and 80/20 Violation Lawsuit

pier a banquet hall tip and 80/20 violations

Two former banquet servers at Pier A Harbor House banquet hall in New York City claim that Pier A unlawfully failed to pay its banquet servers and bartenders the minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law.

The collective and class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, alleges that Pier A paid its banquet servers and bartenders at the tipped minimum wage, currently $7.50 per hour in New York, while requiring them to share their tips with non-service employees.  The servers bringing the lawsuit claim that Pier A charged customers a “Service Fee” equal to 18% of the food and beverage costs of an event, and required its tipped workers to share a portion of this amount with porters.  Porters are back of house employees who provide little to no direct customer service, and are therefore not permitted to participate in tip splitting with front of house workers. Under the FLSA and New York Labor Law, employers lose the privilege of paying workers a tipped minimum wage when they require tip sharing with workers who are not entitled to tips, such as porters or other back of house workers.  The servers also say Pier A never gave its tipped workers notice of its intent to use the tip credit provision.

According to the lawsuit, Pier A also required banquet servers and bartenders to spend more than 20% of their workdays performing non-tipped side work.  For example, during typical banquet events that lasted four hours, Pier A required tipped workers to arrive 2 hours early to set up the dining room and to remain for about 2 hours after the event was over to disassemble to room.

Under the FLSA and New York Labor Law, employers are allowed to take a “tip credit” and pay servers, bussers, bartenders, and other front of the house workers below the federal minimum wage.  The United States Department of Labor regulations provide, however, that a restaurant will not qualify for the “tip credit” for workers that spend more than 20% of their time performing non-tipped work.

 

 

New York City French Restaurant Bagatelle to Pay $1.1 Million for Tip Credit Violations

server restaurant image waiter tip credit

Bagatelle will pay $1.1 million to settle a wage theft lawsuit claiming that the restaurant misappropriated the tips of its food service employees and improperly used a tip credit to pay restaurant workers less than the minimum wage, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.  Bagatelle, the popular upscale French restaurant located in New York City’s Meatpacking District and self-described “NYC institution” is alleged to have required its food service workers, including servers, runners, bussers, and bartenders to share tips with tip ineligible employees, such as managers and silver polishers.   According to the lawsuit, brought by two servers who worked at the restaurant in 2015, when one of the servers asked his manager how much he had earned in tips on a particular night, he was referred to two different managers and never received an answer.

Attorneys for the workers also alleged that Bagatelle used a tip credit to pay its food service workers at the tipped minimum wage, despite failing to give them notice and requiring them to share tips with back of the house employees such as glass polishers and food expeditors.

The proposed settlement encompasses all servers, runners, bussers, and bartenders who worked at Bagatelle from January 1, 2012 to March 1, 2017.  It is estimated that the settlement will cover at least 100 workers and will be distributed in two categories: a. the amount of tips each worker received during his or her work period at Bagatelle, and b. a calculation based on total weeks worked.

Denny’s Restaurants Cheated Assistant Managers out of Overtime Wages According to New York lawsuit

Denny's overtime New York assistant managers

Denny’s restaurants paid Assistant Managers on a salary to avoid paying them overtime, according to a lawsuit filed in New York federal court. An Assistant Manager in Horseheads, New York alleges he worked 50 to 70 hours per week on average, but was not paid overtime compensation at time- and-a-half his regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 each week.  Instead, he says Denny’s paid Assistant Managers an annual salary regardless of the number of hours worked.

The lawsuit is directed at franchise FEAST American Diners LLC, which operates 17 Denny’s restaurants in New York.  Attorneys for the Assistant Manager claim that Assistant Managers at Denny’s had primary job duties that included preparing food, helping customers, bussing tables, cleaning the restaurant, labelling and rotating food product, and checking inventory.  The lawsuit alleges that the Assistant Managers did not exercise the responsibilities of a manager or use independent judgment and discretion in running the restaurants, as they did not hire, fire, discipline, or direct the work of other Denny’s employees.

The lawsuit claims that Denny’s restaurants did not provide labor budgets with enough money to cover all hours needed to complete the necessary manual labor tasks.  As a result, they contend Denny’s had knowledge that this underfunding led to Assistant Managers working more than 40 hours per week while mainly performing the overtime-eligible work tasks described above.  The lawsuit also alleges Denny’s failed to keep accurate time records, does not record all hours worked by Assistant Managers, and failed to post a notice explaining the minimum wage and overtime wage requirements anywhere in the restaurants.

This lawsuit continues a recent trend of restaurant workers alleging misclassification as Assistant Managers so they would be “exempt” from the FLSA requirement to receive overtime pay at time and a half for hours worked over forty in a workweek.  Other restaurants hit with lawsuits claiming Assistant Managers were paid a salary to avoid overtime pay include Cracker Barrel, Dunkin Donuts, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Jimmy John’s.

 

New York City’s Gramercy Tavern Will Pay $695,000 to Restaurant Workers for Wage Theft

Gramercy Tavern, the popular Danny Meyer-owned upscale eatery located in New York City’s Flatiron District has agreed to pay $695,000 to current and former restaurant workers for wage theft violations, including an allegedly illegal tip pool and failure to pay workers the minimum wage.  The lawsuit, brought by two former bussers, claims Gramercy Tavern engaged in unlawful tip pooling practices by requiring service employees, such as service staff, bussers, runners, captains, and other service workers to share their tips with non-service employees. According to the lawsuit, these non-service employees included expeditors, silverware polishers, wine managers, and other workers who did not regularly and customarily interact with customers.

The bussers had claimed Gramercy Tavern used a tip credit to pay its workers at the tipped minimum wage, despite retaining a portion of the tips shared by employees and requiring them to participate in the illegal tip pool with non-service employees.  Employers may not use a tip credit unless the service employees retain 100% of all tips and gratuities they receive.

The workers also alleged that Gramercy Tavern required clients to pay an automatic “service charge” of 20% of the total bill for private events, but that none of these gratuities were distributed to the event’s service workers, in violation of the New York Labor Law.

The settlement will be distributed to approximately 220 waiters, waitresses, captains, bussers, food runners, and coffee runners who worked at Gramercy Tavern at any time between June 23, 2011 and September 15, 2016.  The settlement was approved on May 17, 2017 by Judge James C. Francis, a federal judge in New York.

 

May 21st is National Waiters and Waitresses Day – Know Your Rights!

server restaurant image waiter tip credit

Today is National Waiters and Waitresses Day, but many restaurants in New York will continue to pay their waitstaff incorrectly today, as they do everyday.

If you are a server, runner, bartender, or busser in New York, you should know your rights.  Here are ten wage theft violations that you need to know about:

  1. Management Stealing TipsOwners and managers cannot take a share of the waitstaff’s tips for themselves or use tips to pay for kitchen workers or non-service staff.
  2. Minimum Wage 

    Restaurants in New York are required to pay their waitstaff either a minimum wage (ranging between $9.70 and $11.00 depending on size of employer and location) or a tipped minimum wage ($7.50 per hour in New York).

  3. Overtime Pay 

    Restaurants are supposed to pay their workers overtime at an overtime rate of one and one-half times the worker’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked above 40 per week.

  4. Notice of Tip CreditRestaurants must give waiters, waitresses, runners, bartenders, and bussers proper notice of a “tip credit” before paying them the reduced minimum wage of $7.50.
  5. Misappropriation of “Service Charge” 

    New York restaurants cannot keep the fixed gratuity or “service charge” charged to customers when the customers believe that it is a tip going to waitstaff.

  6. Spread-of-Hours Pay 

    New York restaurants are required to provide their workers with an extra hour of pay at the full minimum wage rate whenever the length of their work day exceeds ten hours.

  7. Credit Card Fees 

    An employer may deduct no more than the credit card processing fees assessed on the charged tips. In other words, the restaurant cannot deduct 5% from your tips for credit card fees if the credit card companies are only charging the restaurant 3% to process the payment.

  8. Charging for Customer Walkouts 

    Servers should not be charged for customers who dine and dash.

  9. Breakage Charges 

    Servers do not have to pay for broken plates or glassware.

  10. Uniform MaintenanceWaitstaff should not be charged for buying or cleaning a uniform.

Gallagher’s Steakhouse in NYC Accused of “Blatantly Stealing” from Workers in Wage Theft Lawsuit

Gallaghers steakhouse wage theft lawsuit

Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City and its owner, long time Long Island Restauranteur Dean Poll has been sued for wage theft, including failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.  In the lawsuit, a former waiter at the restaurant claims Gallagher’s paid all front of the house employees working at the restaurant at the tipped minimum wage, which is currently $7.50 per hour in New York, without giving them notice of the restaurant’s intent to utilize the tip credit. The lawsuit states that due to the misuse of the tip credit, Gallagher’s paid its workers the wrong overtime rate for all hours worked each week over forty.

Dean Poll, who owns Gallagher’s Steakhouse as well as The Loeb Boathouse in New York City’s Central Park, is accused of “blatantly stealing wages” from Gallagher’s wait staff.  Attorneys for the worker allege that Gallagher’s automatically deducted pay for restaurant workers’ thirty-minute lunch breaks, even though the restaurant knew that the workers were not actually taking these breaks.  As a result, wages for the waitstaff were cut by two and-a-half hours each week.  The wage theft lawsuit also claims that Gallagher’s failed to provide servers with proper notice of wages at their time of hiring and accurate pay statements with each payment as required under the New York Labor Law.

Pechman Law Group has successfully settled several cases for restaurant workers employed at New York City steakhouses, including a record $3.15 million settlement with Sparks Steak House in New York City for an illegal tip pooling scheme.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form. Please verify that you have read the disclaimer.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form