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Celebrity Chef Daniel Boulud Sued for Alleged Wage and Hour Violations


The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to pay certain employees who receive tips a lower minimum wage. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to employers trying to cut costs by paying workers who do not normally receive tips at the lower minimum wage. While some companies try to cut costs by including employees who do not normally receive tips in tip pools, one restaurant was allegedly cutting costs by having tipped employees allegedly perform work for which they did not receive tips. The employees’ paychecks though, still allegedly contained deductions to account for tips, resulting in alleged violations of both New York state labor law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The lawsuit was filed by Graciela Roman against the celebrity chef who owned the restaurants, Daniel Boulud, and the dining company, the Dinex Group LLC. Roman bused tables at restaurants owned by Boulud from December 2007 to July 2012. During those years, Roman alleges that she and other employees were required to spend as much as twenty percent of their time performing “side work” for which they did not receive tips. These alleged duties included preparing bread stations, taking out the garbage, sweeping the floors, and setting up dining tables. Despite spending so much of her time performing work for which she did not receive tips, Roman alleges that the restaurant always paid her at the lower minimum wage intended for employees who receive tips.
Although the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does allow employers to pay their workers a lower minimum wage if those employees receive tips, the law requires that the employee’s wages and tips combined must equal at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If the employee does not receive enough tips to reach the standard minimum wage, the employer is required to provide the employee with sufficient wages to make up the rest.

According to the lawsuit, “The Boulud restaurants have a corporate policy or practice of minimizing labor costs by unlawfully taking a tip credit against the minimum wage rate”. It is an unfortunate fact that, in efforts to cut costs by businesses, employees are often the ones who suffer the consequences. There are laws in place, though, to prevent employers from taking advantage of their employees. Employees who are unaware of their rights as workers, are advised to consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney.

The wage and hour class action lawsuit was filed against the chef in 2012. In 2013 Boulud tried to end the proceedings by denying Roman’s allegations. Judge Hellerstein denied Boulud’s motion, saying that the case was too fact-intensive and could not be rushed.

Rather than continuing with the litigation, Boulud has chosen to settle the lawsuit, despite continuing to insist that he has done nothing wrong and that no laws were broken in any of his restaurants. The settlement covers about ninety employees who worked as servers in several of Boulud’s restaurants in New York and were paid the lower minimum wage of employees who allegedly should be receiving tips.

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 Naperville and Schaumburg. 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.