Striking Workers Protest Wage and Hour Mayhem at Philadelphia Sushi Joint

A report in a local Philadelphia online newspaper, In These Times, highlights the maddening nature of restaurant-related work and hour shenanigans.

According to the article, “A Swank Sushi Joint Gets a May Day Scolding From Angry Workers,” servers at a popular local sushi restaurant, Fat Salmon, are livid about their pay arrangement. So livid, in fact, that they’ve taken to protesting outside. “Diana A” (not her real name), a waitress at Fat Salmon, explained why in stark terms: “While Fat Salmon excels in its food, it falls short in its treatment of the people who prepare and serve the food…We, the workers of Fat Salmon, have suffered numerous legal violations and affronts to our dignity.”

Why all the agitation?

The employees allege that the owner, Jack Yoo, developed byzantine, unfair rules regarding tips. Yoo demands that servers pass a four-tiered test before they’re allowed to take home full tip amounts. The system sounds very dodgy:

• Servers who pass Yoo’s beverage test can take home 70% of their tips;
• Servers who pass Yoo’s menu test can take home 80% of their tips;
• Servers who pass a longer menu test can receive 90%;
• Servers who pass a far more stringent menu test are “allowed” to keep 100% of their tips.

Per the workers, Yoo does not let people level up quickly. Many servers say they’ve had to work for months or years at lower levels. “Diana A” claims that she lost up to $1,000 in illegally withheld tips, since it took her months to pass the toughest menu test.

FLSA Violations in Philadelphia: the City Council Steps In

The legal battle over this alleged tip pool violation is well underway.

But Yoo and other local restaurant owners who stand similarly accused of FLSA violations might face additional problems, thanks to a new law passed by the Philadelphia City Council. This law — written to stop tax evaders — has big implications for employers who steal tips or wages from their workers. Why? Because when they rip off workers, they also indirectly steal money from the city.

Per the new law, anyone who suspects a wage violation can complain to the Philadelphia City Solicitor’s office; the city then must investigate. If the owner is found guilty, he or she must pay twice the amount owed. If the owner resists or does not cooperate, that amount can be bumped up to triple the amount owed. Whistleblowers, meanwhile, can collect up to 30% of the fine.

A Growing Movement: People Are Fed Up with Restaurant Wage and Hour Violations

The team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP has been at the cutting edge of wage and hour law for years. We’ve successfully taken on big, complex, high profile cases in New York City and challenged well-established restaurant industry interests.

If you believe that your employer has mistreated you – i.e. engaged in harassment, overtime violations, or any other unfair practices – we’d love to hear from you and help you figure you what can be done. Call us today at (212) 688-5640.

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