Talula’s Garden, a Philadelphia restaurant, has agreed to pay 63 workers $400,000 for wage theft violations, including requiring employees to work unpaid hours, according to a lawsuit initiated by the U.S. Department of Labor. The lawsuit alleges Talula’s Garden violated the overtime, minimum wage, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
“The workers at Talula’s Garden did not receive the required minimum wage and overtime pay,” said a representative for the Department of Labor. “Our agency is committed to ensuring that workers not only receive the wages they have rightfully earned, but that employers are provided all the tools they need to understand and comply with the law.”
The investigation found that line cooks did prep work off-the-clock before the start of their shifts, resulting in unpaid overtime work. Servers and bartenders also worked – off-the-clock and without pay – to prepare food, the restaurant, and their individual work stations, resulting in minimum wage and overtime violations. The restaurant also failed to maintain accurate records of work hours for bartenders, servers, and line cooks.
“The off-the-clock work performed by Talula’s Garden employees resulted in clear violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said another Department of Labor employee. The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time-and-one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses, and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.
Oheka Castle, a catering facility for weddings and lavish events in Huntington, Long Island, has been hit with a wage theft class action by a former server and bartender.
According to the federal court Complaint filed by the attorneys for the workers, the catering facility (which was once the second largest residence in the United States) developed a fraudulent timekeeping scheme in order to avoid the payment of overtime premiums to their waitstaff. When workers worked more than forty hours in a single workweek, they were required to carry over their hours to subsequent weeks, so that company records would not reflect that they worked more than forty hours in a given workweek. In addition, the catering facility regularly required workers whose hours approached forty hours in a workweek to clock out of the company’s biometric timekeeping system and continue working.
Attorneys for the workers allege that the catering hall misappropriated tips belonging to servers and bartenders. The Complaint alleges that owner Gary Melius personally confiscated cash tips left by patrons for other service staff. Moreover, Oheka charges patrons of their restaurant and catering services, a “service charge” of up to 22% which is added to the bill, leading patrons to believe that the service charges would be paid to the service staff. According to the lawsuit, however, Oheka violated the New York Labor Law because it did not remit any of those service charges to the service staff.
McDonald’s was hit with seven lawsuits by workers in California, Michigan, and New York, who claimed that the company and some franchise owners failed to pay the employees for all hours worked, failed to pay them overtime, shaved their hours from their time cards, and ordered them to work “off the clock.”
In California, lawsuits were filed against area restaurants, including one filed against 100 McDonald’s owned and operated by the company itself. In Michigan, attorneys for the workers allege that fast food restaurants told their employees to show up for work, but only paid them after having them wait an hour or two for more customers to arrive. The New York lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s failed to reimburse its staff for the laundering and maintenance of their uniforms, or the time spent doing so, even though the restaurant provided them with only one uniform and required a clean uniform to be worn each day. Because of these and other worker rights violations, the lawyers for the restaurant workers are seeking reimbursement for unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and other relief.
These lawsuits come on the heels of several strikes organized in New York to pressure McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants to increase the minimum wage.