BY: Jason J. Thompson | IN: Class Action & Commercial Litigation, Employment Law
A new class action lawsuit brought by food servers working at Chili’s Grill & Bar® accuses restaurant conglomerate Quality Dining, Inc. of wrongfully denying them compensation in violation of state labor laws.
A group of servers employed at Chili’s locations across Pennsylvania alleges that they were the victims of unlawful tip-sharing practices that failed to comply with the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage requirement. The servers claim they were paid only $2.83, and that a “tip credit” scheme failed to make up the $4.42 per hour shortfall.
Although the law does permit employers to utilize tip credits to satisfy minimum wage laws, food servers cannot be compelled to share tips with other restaurant workers who do not “customarily and regularly receive tips.” The Chili’s servers argue that they were forced to share tips with food expediters and that the company required those expediters to clock into its timekeeping system as “food runners” to disguise their participation in the tip pool. By improperly distributing the shared tips across a greater number of employees, the servers allege that their tips were diluted, resulting in less pay than they rightfully earned.
Quality Dining operates approximately 46 Chili’s Grill & Bar® restaurants in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Wage theft and compensation abuse in the restaurant industry is not new. In July 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division issued Fact Sheet #15, in which it alerted tipped employees of certain abuses prevalent in the service industry. In particular, the publication specifically condemns employer practices of not paying tipped employees all of their tips or requiring them to pool their tips with non-tipped employees:
The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Wage & Hour Litigation Group are investigating claims of unlawful tip pooling at Chili’s restaurants in Michigan and elsewhere. If you are or were a food server and believe you were the victim of an improper tip credit scheme, please contact us today – the law gives you only a limited amount of time to seek damages and compensation.
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Jason Thompson is a nationally board certified trial attorney and co-chairs Sommers Schwartz’s Complex Litigation Department. He has a formidable breadth of litigation experience, including class action and multidistrict litigation (MDL), and practices nationwide in both state and federal courts.