Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, a restaurant chain serving American food, has agreed to pay $2.5M to settle wage theft claims of approximately 7,050 servers at Firebirds restaurants across the country. The lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of all servers at Firebirds locations nationwide, claims that Firebirds failed to pay its servers the minimum wage by unlawfully claiming a tip credit on all of its servers’ wages despite not paying them their actual tips or giving them adequate required notice. In particular, the lawsuit alleges that Firebirds paid one server $2.15 per hour and relied on the “tip credit” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make up the difference between the paid wage and the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Failure to give tipped employees proper notice of the tip credit and paying them less than the minimum wage is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Specifically, attorneys for the servers say Firebirds had a uniform policy of requiring its servers at all locations to spend more than 20 percent of their work time performing non-tipped duties, or “side work” activities. These duties included preparing coffee, cleaning counters and beverage machines, sweeping floors, stocking glasses and napkins, refilling condiments, and polishing silverware. The lawsuit also asserts that Firebirds uniformly failed to track the amount of time spent by its servers performing non-tipped side work, resulting in the restaurant routinely failing to pay their servers the federal minimum wage.