Tag Archives: Servers

Mastro’s Restaurant Accused of Stealing from Tip Pool

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Tipped employees at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Chicago sued the restaurant in Illinois state court, claiming that the restaurant illegally retained a portion of the tip pool, and failed to pay its servers the correct minimum wage.

Former Mastro’s busser Jose Murata brought the class action in Illinois State Court against Mastro’s, accusing the restaurant of violating Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act when it kept part of the pool of tips shared by its front of the house employees.

Attorneys for the severs claim that “the net effect of defendant’s policies and practices is that defendant willfully failed to pay the full amount of compensation earned and due to plaintiff and all other similarly situated employees,” and that “defendant thus enjoyed ill-gained profits at the expense of its hourly employees, including its Tip Credit Employees and Tip Pool Employees.” The class action lawsuit alleges that “in exchange for said labor, defendant was obligated to plaintiff and each member of putative … class the full amount of wages they earned, including tips. Defendant’s practice of operating an illegal tip pool and its improper taking of the Tip Credit has resulted in defendant’s Tip Credit Employees not being paid the full amount of minimum wages owed to them.” The lawsuit, claims that the restaurant was not allowed to take a  tip credit because it failed to pay the proper amount of wages to its servers.

Restaurants cannot require servers to share their tips with non-service employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, janitors, and managers. Restaurants can require waiters to split their tips from customers with other front of the house employees who provide personal service to customers as a principal and regular part of their duties (such as bussers, bartenders, barbacks, food runners, captains who provide direct food service to customers, and hosts who greet and seat guests).

Servers at Le Cirque Sue For Minimum Wage and Overtime Violations

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A waiter at Le Cirque restaurant, recognized as one of the best restaurants in New York City, has filed a class action complaint in Manhattan federal court on behalf of all front of the house employees, other than captains, employed at the restaurant since September 17, 2008.

The lawsuit alleges that the restaurant violated the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law when it paid service employees a reduced tipped minimum wage rate without adhering to the laws’ requirements by which it could take the “tip credit.”  Attorneys for the workers claim that the restaurant should not have paid the workers the federal tipped minimum wage because the restaurant allowed captains, who were managerial employees, to share in the tips, and also failed to adequate notice of the tip credit to the service employees.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers are allowed to take a “tip credit” and pay waiters, bussers, and bartenders below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. (Note: minimum wage in New York is now $8.00 per hour).  For example, the “tip credit” for waitstaff in New York is currently $3.00 per hour, meaning that waiters, busboys, and bartenders can be paid an hourly minimum wage of $5.00 per hour.  The Fair Labor Standards Act only allows employers to take this tip credit when the employees have been informed of the tip credit provisions of that law, and when the worker is allowed to retain all of the tips that he receives or is only required to share his tips with other workers who also customarily and regularly receive tips, such as servers, busboys, runners and bartenders.

The complaint against the restaurant alleges that the captains had authority to set schedules, discipline employees, grant or deny vacation requests, interview prospective employees, run pre-shift meetings, control station assignments, and recommend employees for hire, fire, and promotions.

The case against Le Cirque seeks back wages, penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.  This is the second lawsuit brought against Le Cirque for wage violations. Waiters who staffed private parties sued in 2009 over the restaurant’s retention of a mandatory service charge of as much as 20% paid on private parties.

Average Wage of New York City Waiter and Waitress is $23.34 According to a Pay Survey

nyc hospital alliance

The average wage of a server in a New York City restaurant is $23.34 per hour, according a tip wage survey conducted by New York City Hospitality Alliance.

The pay survey, which was taken by employers at 486 New York City restaurants and bars employing approximately 15,000 tipped employees, revealed that besides the average $23.34 hourly wage for servers, bartenders earn approximately $27.48 per hour, and bussers and food runners earn about $17.11 per hour. Cocktail servers and bartenders at clubs and lounges make approximately $31.21 an hour and $32.35 an hour, respectively, and bussers and food runners at those nightlife establishments make an average of $18.84 per hour.

The survey was released by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an industry advocacy group, on October 17, 2014, in anticipation of a Wage Board hearing that was held by the New York State Department of Labor on October 20. At the hearing, advocates were pushing for the elimination of the tip credit, which would require employers to pay tipped employees an additional $4.00 after the minimum wage increases. Restaurant employers and industry representatives, however, argued that the elimination of the tip credit would have devastating economic effects, resulting in among other things, hiring freezes, layoffs, lower wages, and few restaurants openings.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance proposed freezing the $5.00 per hour for tipped employees making a living wage of about one and one-half times the current minimum wage when their tips are added to the base wage. If the $5.00 per hour plus tips equals less than that, the employer pays a higher hourly tip wage.

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.

Oheka Castle Hit with Wage Theft Lawsuit

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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 Restaurants Sued for Wage Theft

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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.

Philadelphia Newspapers Give Shout Out to Waiterpay.com

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The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News have recognized waiterpay.com in their recent coverage on the record $8.5 million settlement with Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurants.