After years of litigation, our New York wage and hour lawyers successfully settled a major case against a prominent New York City eatery on behalf of 32 plaintiffs, who alleged that the Defendant had violated New York Labor Law by illegally withholding gratuities.
Although the Defendant denied (and continues to deny) the material allegations and claims asserted, the restaurant agreed to settle, rather than risk extended litigation or a large public trial that could decimate the business’ brand. All told, after attorney’s fees and other costs, the plaintiffs received over $507,000 – a huge sum of money for any business to pay, particularly a restaurant trying to survive in the ferociously competitive New York food service industry.
Fortunately, the servers who fought to get this tip rule violation corrected can now rebuild their finances and move forward with their lives and careers. While the settlement was unquestionably a big victory for the plaintiffs, the resolution still feels slightly bittersweet. Why did it take so much effort, legal and otherwise, to compel this employer to adhere to the law and treat hardworking servers justly? More broadly, why do so many restaurants (and other businesses) in New York and beyond fail to nurture their biggest asset: their people?
These are profound questions.
The sheer number of overtime and workplace violation allegations we’ve seen staggers the mind. This trend suggests a deeply-rooted problem with certain business cultures.
Yes, exceptions apply. Some employers “get in over their heads” and thus obliviously fail to adhere to minute details of New York Labor Law or the FLSA. Some businesses do make honest mistakes. But when you look at this case in a larger context – which our team is uniquely privy to do, since we’ve litigated literally dozens of high profile wage and hour cases that share elements with this one – you cannot help but wonder whether something bigger needs to be fixed. How can we collectively change labor culture to guarantee that hardworking crews in restaurants and elsewhere get fair treatment and fair pay?
If you or someone you know or love wants a private, confidential consultation about your own workplace dilemma – whether you suffered sexual harassment, a wage and overtime violation, or another slight – get in touch with the team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP, today for a free consultation. Call us now at (212) 688-5640.