Wall Street Journal Reports: New York City Restaurant Workers Win Big Settlements in Wage-Violation Cases

In our last post, we discussed a Federal Judicial Center (FJC) analysis that’s found a dramatic rise in the number of wage-and-hour cases filed throughout the U.S. over recent years.

Drilling down to a more local level, a parallel trend in FLSA actions has occurred here in New York State:

•    In fiscal year 2009, plaintiffs filed 652 wage-violation cases in New York State alone.
•    In the most recent fiscal year that ended in June 2015, plaintiffs filed 1,738 cases – a 2.6 magnitude increase in a little more than half a decade.
•    For workers in New York City alone, the state recovered $11.6 million in unpaid wages for January through July of this year.

The spate of wage and hour activity has attracted serious attention from the media and may be spurring fundamental changes not only in how restaurant and hospitality industry leaders operate but also in how dishwashers, servers, hosts and hostesses and other workers respond to wrongdoing, underpayment and harassment.

A must-read Wall Street Journal article published last month, More Employees Sue Restaurants in Wage Disputes, explains that “workers who say they have been cheated out of wages are increasingly taking legal action against expensive eateries in New York City” and mentions a major case in which: “workers who claimed they were underpaid recently reached a $1.4 million legal settlement with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, head of the Michelin-starred Daniel and Café Boulud.”

Meanwhile, a July 2nd story in the New York Times, Per Se Violated Labor Law With ‘Service Charge,’ Inquiry Finds, quoted attorney Kirschenbaum, who’s become widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and aggressive wage and hour lawyers in the city: “D. Maimon Kirschenbaum, a lawyer for restaurant workers who has been involved in similar cases, says [these cases] are frequently about profit, not oversight.”

According to the head of a restaurant workers’ advocacy group quoted by the Wall Street Journal, restaurants are more and more demonstrating a willingness to settle, rather than go to trial, because they fear losing.

If you work in a service industry in New York, and you haven’t been treated fairly or paid due wages and overtime, our team can help. Please call our experienced wage and hour lawyers today to schedule a consultation at (212) 688-5640, or email us at info@jhllp.com.