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.
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Charging for Customer Walkouts
Servers should not be charged for customers who dine and dash.
- Breakage Charges
Servers do not have to pay for broken plates or glassware.
- Uniform MaintenanceWaitstaff should not be charged for buying or cleaning a uniform.
Waverly Restaurant, a diner in New York City’s West Village, was found guilty of retaliation against former workers in a decision by Judge Steven Davis of the National Labor Relations Board. After a three-day trial, Judge Davis found that the restaurant reduced worker hours because they had filed a federal court wage theft lawsuit against the restaurant for overtime, minimum wage, and other violations. The Judge also found that management had pressured waiters, delivery workers and bussers involved in the FLSA lawsuit to drop the suit. The restaurant workers were represented at the trial by Vivianna Morales and Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com.