While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does require employers to pay all of their workers in the United States at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the Act does provide exceptions for certain workers. Employees who normally receive tips, such as waiters and bartenders, can be paid a lower minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. This lower minimum wage is contingent upon the servers receiving enough tips that, between their tips and their wages, they are paid at least the federal minimum wage. In the event that a tipped employee does not receive enough tips to reach the federal minimum wage, the Act requires the employer to make up the difference.
Sometimes patrons fail to leave a tip because they are misled by a “service charge” on their bill. A service charge, rather than a tip or a gratuity, is a compulsory charge on a bill which goes to cover additional expenses for a meal, such as music and setup. It does not go to the wait staff, but rather gets distributed among the restaurant’s managers and higher employees. A gratuity, on the other hand, is voluntary and entirely up to the patron’s discretion and goes directly to the individual server. Many customers at restaurants have been misled into thinking that they are leaving a tip for their server when they see a gratuity charge on their bill when, in fact, the wait staff does not receive any of that money.
This allegedly happened at the Crown Group Hospitality restaurants of celebrity chef John DeLucie. Although the restaurants comprise some of the most expensive eateries in New York City, several members of the wait staff allege that they have been paid less than the federally mandated minimum wage as a result of the service charges that appear on customers’ bills.
The wage and hour lawsuit alleges that the wait staff had gaps in their paychecks and that customers were supposedly led to believe that the service charge was to be distributed among the wait staff. New York law does allow for restaurants and event companies to charge their customers a service charge, but the law requires that the bill must make it clear that the service charge is not a gratuity and that it will not be distributed among the wait staff. The lawsuit alleges that this was not made clear on the restaurants’ bills, which allegedly misled customers and resulted in the wait staff allegedly going without tips and getting paid less than the federal minimum wage.
The lawsuit is seeking lost wages for the plaintiffs as well as an enforcement of New York’s service charge regulations so that customers are made aware of the fact that the wait staff does not receive any money from the service charge. The lawsuit was filed a year ago, but has just recently gained media attention. It is one of many wage and hour lawsuits which have been on the rise lately. Many employment attorneys believe that the violations began during the recent recession when businesses were trying to cut costs and employees were too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. Now that the job market has stabilized somewhat, an increasing number of employees have begun to fight back.
The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for misclassifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Romeoville and Joliet. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Rosemont and Des Plaines overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.