New York wage and hour lawsuits can be astonishingly complex events.
Although the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum has a practically unmatched track record for pursuing litigation against NYC restaurateurs who violate laws like the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Laws, each case is pregnant with nuances. These distinctions must be delicately managed. You must balance the drive to exact justice and ensure fair remuneration with the need to control the proceedings and maximize the likelihood of success.
Consider, as an example, a wage and hour class-action case we settled earlier this year for the large amount, by industry standards, of $404,000.00. The defendant was a high profile New York restaurant: a prominent business with a loyal customer following. Unfortunately, the business’s drive to serve up sumptuous food while keeping costs down apparently trumped its drive to hew precisely to the FLSA and to New York labor laws.
Not the Way to Pay Your Hard Working Employees
Our class-action asserted that defendant violated these crucial laws in multiple ways:
• Service employees had to share their tips with coffee makers, napkin rollers and other “non-service” workers. In enforcing this policy, the defendant illegally withheld portions of tips. The lawsuit asked the defendant to return the tips and redistribute them fairly.
• The illegal withholding should make the defendant ineligible for the “tip credit,” which allows restaurants to pay certain food service workers a lower minimum wage. (The catch is: those workers need to be able to collect tips. That’s why they call it a “tip credit”!)
• The plaintiff did not fairly remunerate workers who exceeded so-called the “spread of hours premium.” In New York, certain workers who work more than 10 hours a day need to be paid an additional hour at the state’s minimum wage.
Settled in Mediation — Not at Trial
We settled this case through a mediated agreement.
The defendants agreed to pay $404,000.00. The members of the class, who opted in and who worked as full time employees at the establishment, will collect between $2,000.00 and $4,500.00 each
The plaintiffs certainly had lots of compelling evidence. In this case, the broad investigation yielded a plethora of facts disputed with the defendant — no surprise, since the events spanned over four years and involved more than 400 workers.
Class action lawyers face literally dozens of nuanced disputed facts, and must deal with them powerfully and convincingly to get the the highest recoveries for our clients and succeed with high stakes litigation.
If you or a loved one was mistreated at a restaurant — denied fair compensation, harassed, or abused in any way — the ethical, highly respected team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum would be happy to provide a free case evaluation. Call us today at (212) 688-5640.