Waiters Sue Employer For Taking Wages To Cover Walk-Outs

Earlier this week, we wrote about the legality (or lack thereof) of employers docking tipped workers’ wages to cover walk-outs and bad orders. Little did we know that the same day, dozens of current and former servers at a Milwaukee restaurant were filing a class-action suit, alleging these sorts of violations.

The plaintiffs say they were being paid a base wage of $2.33 an hour, which is fine, so long as they earned sufficient tips to meet minimum wage requirements. If they did not, the employer is supposed to make up the difference.

But these waiters say they were forced to cover the tab when customers walked out or when food or drink was returned to the kitchen. As we covered the other day, federal law allows for these deductions, but only to the point to where the employee’s pay is still at least minimum wage of $7.25/hour. Tips are the property of the employee (or employees, if they are pooled) and do not count toward that threshold. So since the employees in this case all earned base pay that is less than minimum wage, they can not be docked for walk-outs.

The lawsuit alleges further misdeeds by the restaurant, like refusing to start counting an employee’s hours until the first customer of the shift had been seated, even in cases where the staff was required to come in early to set tables.

Plaintiffs also claim that the restaurant’s managers were inappropriately helping themselves to pooled tips.

The suit seeks reimbursement of unpaid wages, which could be doubled by the court if the plaintiffs win, and legal fees.

You can read more about the suit at FOX 6 Milwaukee and the Journal-Sentinel Online.