Employers are allowed to pay their tipped workers a lower minimum wage than workers who do not earn tips, but paying them tips without any wages is not legal under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. Even when tipped employees are paid the lower minimum wage, the tips they earn, plus their wages, must add up to at least the standard minimum wage to which all other workers are entitled. If their earnings fall below the standard minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference.
According to a wage and hour lawsuit filed against Café Misono Inc. by the Department of Labor (DOL), the restaurant allegedly refused to pay at least one waiter anything at all, requiring that employee to live off their tips alone.
The DOL further alleged in its lawsuit that an additional 14 workers were not paid the proper overtime compensation when they worked more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. The FLSA does allow employers to exempt certain workers from the premium overtime compensation, but the law is very specific about the requirements those workers need to meet in order to qualify for the overtime exemption. All hourly, non-exempt workers are entitled to one and one-half times their normal rate of pay for all the overtime they work.
The wage and hour lawsuit also alleges the restaurant paid two dishwashers a flat rate that was below the minimum wage for the 60 hours the two employees allegedly worked each week.
The DOL opened an investigation into Café Misono in March 2013, at which point it required Kenneth Lee, the restaurant’s CFO, to provide the department with records of what each employee was paid. But according to the lawsuit, the records Lee provided were falsified to show that the restaurant had been paying all its workers the proper overtime compensation. Employees were also allegedly encouraged to give the DOL’s representative false information about how many hours they worked for the restaurant.
As a result, the DOL alleges Café Misono knew it was violating the FLSA and did so intentionally. With the many complicated labor laws, not just at the federal level, but also at the state, county, and city levels, it’s easy for employers to get confused and make mistakes. But the fact that the restaurant went through the trouble of falsifying its payment records and telling its employees to lie to the DOL suggests the owners knew perfectly well that their employment practices were illegal and unfair to their workers.
Lying to the DOL and knowingly providing falsified records have therefore been added to the list of allegations in the DOL’s lawsuit. The department is also seeking back wages to be paid to the workers who were denied minimum wage and overtime, as well as an equal amount of liquidated damages.
Because the Café Misono is located in Massachusetts, the lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts federal court by Alexander Acosta, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
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 Hilton, DoubleTree, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Staybridge Suites, Best Western, HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Applebees, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying 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 Cicero and Berwyn. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Des Plaines and Mt. Prospect 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 mis-classify 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 unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.