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Harvard Accused of Withholding Waiters’ Tips


Instead of having customers leave an optional tip for wait staff, some companies have opted to add a mandatory service charge to their bills. This is particularly popular in the restaurant industry for tables with large groups of people. In this case, the money from the service charge goes to the company’s management, rather than the employee. The company is then supposed to distribute the money from the service charges among the wait staff, but this does not always happen. Some states, including Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and Washington, require companies that include a service charge in their bill to explicitly state that the service charge goes to management, rather than the wait staff.

The Harvard University Faculty Club allegedly violated this law by collecting a service charge from its patrons and failing to provide any disclaimers in connection with the service charge, explaining that it went to management, rather than the wait staff. In addition, the University allegedly failed to distribute the money it collected from those service charges to its employees. As a result, the servers at Harvard University Faculty Club filed a wage and hour class action lawsuit to recover the money that they earned from working for the university, but were never paid.

Angel Hernandez, the named plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, alleges that there was a collective bargaining agreement which existed between the University and the wait staff. This agreement allegedly required the servers to work for the university, but to remain quiet on the issue of gratuity charges. Patrons of the University’s Faculty Club were allegedly told not to tip the wait staff. Despite the fact that the University regularly charged its customers between 18 and 22 percent of their total purchase, none of that money was ever distributed to the wait staff.

Harvard University has tried to argue that the agreement was actually beneficial to the servers, because they were unionized. The district judge rejected that argument though, pointing to the fact that the waiters were asked to remain silent on the issue of tips as evidence that the university knew it was acting in violation of the law.
Harvard University tried to claim that, as part of the collective bargaining agreement, the servers had agreed not to sue the university. The university tried numerous times to get the court to dismiss the case on grounds such as these, but the judge denied all of those motions.

Harvard University also tried to argue that its failure to distribute the money from the gratuity charges did not harm the waiters because they were paid more than double what the average restaurant server is paid. Hernandez alleges that this is not true, pointing to the fact that he has been working at the university’s faculty club since 1999, and according to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, has always been paid a flat hourly rate which does not match Harvard University’s numbers.

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 Aurora and St. Charles. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Palatine and Wheeling 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.