A little over one year after filing a wage and hour lawsuit against La Piccola Fontana, workers now sue the restaurant for retaliation. Located in Hilton’s San Juan Hotel and Casino in Carolina, Puerto Rico, La Piccola has a sister restaurant in the island’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, El Conquistador. In 2015, several waiters and bartenders brought suit on their behalf and other workers’ behalf in the federal court of Puerto Rico, alleging violations of federal and Puerto Rican minimum and overtime wage laws.
That complaint asserts that La Piccola improperly applied a tip credit against the waitstaff’s wages because it failed to notify waitstaff of the laws establishing the tip credit and imposed an invalid tip pool in which managers were incorrectly included. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) currently sets the minimum wage at $7.25, except for workers under 25 years of age who, for their first ninety days of work, can be paid as little as $4.25 under the new law called PROMESA (the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act). If properly claiming the tip credit, an employer must pay tipped workers at least $2.13 an hour.
According to the most recent complaint, La Piccola later closed for renovations in late 2016, promising the waitstaff suing the restaurant that they would be able to continue their jobs once renovations completed. Those workers say that they were not called back to work when La Piccola reopened in 2017. They claim that the restaurant refused to continue employing them in retaliation for complaining about their unpaid wages, in violation of the FLSA, the Puerto Rico Unjust Dismissal Act, and Puerto Rico Retaliation Act. The suit seeks over $1 million in damages for economic and mental suffering alone. The workers’ original claims could not be resolved at mediation and are now proceeding to trial.
Monkey Bar, a popular New York City restaurant owned by Graydon Carter (best known as the Publisher of Vanity Fair), has been hit by a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court for race discrimination and violation of wage payment laws.
Attorneys for Samuel Prabir, a food runner at Monkey Bar, claims that he spent more than 20% of his workdays performing non-tipped work, such as polishing silverware, setting up the expediter’s station, and preparing sauces.
According to the lawyers for the worker, he was also harassed by other workers at the restaurant because of his Bengali national origin. The lawsuit alleges that he was wrongfully discharged when he complain to restaurant management about the discrimination.
A program on “How to Handle a Wage and Hour Case” will be held at the New York County Lawyers’ Association on January 31, 2013. Faculty for the program are Terri Gerstein, the Labor Bureau Chief, New York State Attorney General’s Office; Justin Swartz, attorney with Outten & Golden LLP; and Noel Tripp, attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP.
Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com, will moderate the program. For more information on the program, visit NYCLA’s site.
A Panda Express restaurant, part of the giant Chinese fast-food chain, subjected a class of female employees, including teenagers, to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed in Hawaii on September 26, 2012.
According to the EEOC, a male supervisor at the Panda Express in Kapaa, Kauai, sexually abused at least three female teenagers starting in 2008 and likely several more. At least one of the teen workers was physically groped and subjected to lewd language and obscene sexual propositions repeatedly. Upon reporting the harassment to the general manager, the EEOC said, the teen’s hours were cut in retaliation, forcing her to resign. Another teen victim was also forced to quit to avoid persistent verbal obscenities and sexual advances by the same supervisor.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC attorneys are seeking all available relief including lost wages, front pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of the class of women. Substantial remedies including policy changes and staff training are also being sought by the EEOC in order to prevent and to appropriately address future instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
A sex harassment and retaliation case against Sutton Place Bar and Restaurant can move to trial, according to a recent Decision by a New York court. The lawsuit alleges that owner Neil Hanafy subjected female employees to a hostile work environment by constantly subjecting waitresses to vulgar sexual comments, comments about their weight and appearance, and inappropriate touches of their buttocks and breasts. One server testified that Hanafy repeatedly asked her how much she weighed, and tried to weigh her by forcibly lifting her onto a scale. The waitresses also allege that complaints of the lewd comments and sexual advances were ignored by both Hanafy and supervisor Selena Steddinger.
The two waitresses also allege unlawful termination, as they were fired from their employment shortly after complaining about the forcible weighing of all female employees.
A retaliation case against Sparks Steakhouse can move to trial, according to a recent Decision by United States District Court Judge Paul Crotty. The lawsuit alleges that Ibrahim T. Wakim, a server at Sparks, was terminated from his job because of his participation in a wage lawsuit against the restaurant, which resulted in a $3.15 million settlement for the waiters at Sparks. The wage lawsuit on behalf of the workers at the restaurant claimed violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law, including that the restaurant improperly included non-tipped employees who worked in the kitchen in the tip pool.
Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com, is the attorney for Mr. Wakim.
A former corporate accountant for The Fireman Group Café Concepts, Inc. has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was harassed, discriminated against, retaliated against, and discharged due to her national origin.
The accountant alleges in her Complaint that as early as her first day of work her supervisor expressed shock that she was hired because she was not Russian, refused to train her, and only spoke Russian with the rest of the accounting staff who were also Russian. The accountant claims she was made fun of and imitated in a mocking manner by the supervisor because of her Egyptian ethnicity. She also contends that she repeatedly complained to management about the supervisor’s derogatory comments and harassment but was told there was nothing they could do. After completing her first 90 days of work the accountant asserts that she asked to be provided health insurance. Although other employees were given health insurance after their first 90 days of work, the accountant claims she was told she had complained too much about her supervisor’s harassment and was not eligible. About one week after her supervisor allegedly told her “people of the same culture get along well together,” the accountant was fired.
Attorneys for the accountant seek damages for lost wages resulting from her unlawful termination as well as compensatory damages for mental, emotional and physical injury, distress, pain and suffering, injury to reputation, and attorneys’ fees.
The Movement to End Wage Theft, a report on minimum wage and overtime violations nationwide, was released this month by the Discount Foundation. The report examines the wage theft movement and strategies that have been developed by workers’ rights organizations and attorneys to combat violations of employment laws.
How to Handle a Wage and Hour Case is the subject of a program that will be held at New York County Lawyers’ Association on October 25, 2011. Speakers at the program include Terri Gerstein, Esq., Labor Bureau Chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Rachel Bien of Outten & Golden LLP, and Noel Tripp of Jackson Lewis LLP. Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com, will moderate the program. More information on the program can be found by visiting NYCLA’s website.
A cashier who claims she was denied compensation for “off the clock” work and overtime at a Boynton Beach Burger King restaurant, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking to recover unpaid minimum and overtime wages under the wage-and-hour and anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Florida law.
According to the lawsuit, the cashier worked as a “Team Member” and, under Burger King policy, was prohibited from “performing any work while not clocked in.” However, the restaurant management’s common practice was to require the cashier and other employees to clock-out at the end of their shifts, and remain on the premises performing other tasks for which they were not paid. The lawsuit claims the cashier worked straight time without being compensated at the minimum wage rate and to have worked over 40 hours per week without being compensated the mandatory time-and-a-half pay for overtime work. Moreover, the employees were not allowed to take breaks or have meals, despite Burger King’s policy of providing “time outs for breaks and meals.”
The lawsuit further alleges that when the cashier objected to the restaurant’s policy and practices and informed management that it is illegal to require employees to work off the clock, she was sent home early with a warning that if she could not perform the job she should find a new one. The cashier also complained to Burger King Human Resources. Although the restaurant’s General Manager and Human Resources acknowledged improper pay practices, the violations continued, and the cashier’s employment was terminated in retaliation for her complaints.