Boston Wage and Hour Lawsuit Alleges Unpaid Overtime, Unfair Tip Distribution

Wage violations in the Boston restaurant industry are more commonplace than you might think. rumdrinks.jpg

While Massachusetts laws regarding hours and tips are very strict when it comes to how restaurants must compensate workers, there is a decent chance that your meals are cooked and served by individuals who aren’t properly paid. Such abuses are relatively common in the food service industry, where managers and owners tend to take advantage of workers they assume won’t speak up.

One of the most recent cases is a class action lawsuit filed in Worcester Superior Court, in which Friday’s waiters and cooks allege a host of wage violations. Specifically, the workers say they were often required to work more than 40 hours in a given week, though they were required to work their overtime off-the-clock. Essentially, that meant they were getting paid nothing when they should have been making time-and-a-half.

Additionally, members of the waitstaff say they were forced to turn over a portion of their tips to those who worked as hosts. This is despite the fact that waitstaff typically make only a few dollars an hour (relying largely on tips to supplement their wages), while hosts make at least minimum wage.

In speaking recently with a Boston Globe reporter, one of the employees involved in the lawsuit said the wait staff tended not to mind as much the unpaid overtime because they continued to earn tips. However, the cooks, who typically earned between $10 and $15 hourly, lost a substantial amount of money each week.

While the restaurant reportedly attempted to compensate workers for unpaid overtime by giving them free meals, they were already entitled to a half price discount on all food. There were also promises of a more desirable schedule for those who complied.

But mostly, the worker said, they did it because they didn’t want to lose their jobs.

It’s not the first time the Friday’s chain has been accused of such violations. In November 2012, staffers working for New York locations filed suit in Diombera v. The Riese Organization, Inc. et al, currently pending in the New York Southern District Court. In addition to overtime violations, workers there said the company did not pay them a meaningful wage for the “side work” they frequently carried out during slower times of the shift.

Per Mass. Gen. Laws c. 149, s.152A, tip pools are forbidden except in cases where the worker remits a portion of earnings to other wait staff employees, service employees or service bartenders. “Service employees” are those who work in occupations that typically receive tips or gratuities and who provide direct service to the customer.

With regard to overtime, for the most part, non-managerial employees who work more than 40 hours weekly must be given one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay. There are some exceptions, as listed in M.G.L. c. 151, s.1A. In a restaurant setting, the only exception would be a seasonal position in which the business is only operational for a cumulative 120 days in a year.

The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:
Workers sue TGI Fridays for wage violations, Jan. 17, 2014, By Katie Johnson, Boston Globe
More Blog Entries:
Independent Contractors and Employment Considerations in Massachusetts, Nov. 20, 2013, Boston Employment Lawsuit Attorney Blog

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