A proposed class action filed earlier this month against Highgate Hotels, L.P. and Knickerbocker Hotel has been removed to federal court in New York. Behind the suit are three former hotel employees – a server, a bartender, and a bar-back – who claim they were deprived of proper minimum and overtime wages while working at St. Cloud, a roof-top lounge at the hotel.
According to the suit, the Times Square lounge is a highly sought-after party venue and hosts high-end events for which customers often pay various extra fees, such as a $250 “bar fee.” These charges were purported to be a gratuity for employees, the case says, but were instead completely retained by the defendants.
The case goes on to address an allegedly improper tip pool in which the plaintiffs were required to participate. The workers claim “there always seemed to be money missing from the pool,” as the defendants’ distribution method “never added up.” The lawsuit argues that the tip pool distribution included non-tipped employees, making the practice invalid under federal and state labor law.
Further, despite working events for which tickets were worth up to $100,000 each, the plaintiffs say that their tips were just a “fraction of what the estimated revenue was for the evening,” as the defendants supposedly misappropriated a majority of tips received. By way of example, the case details the plaintiffs’ 12-hour shifts on New Year’s Eve in 2017, when the workers tended to around 400 guests but allegedly received tips that were significantly smaller than expected. When one plaintiff asked how the amounts were calculated, the defendants reportedly “refused to disclose” any information.
Lastly, one plaintiff claims he was discriminated against based on his religion when the defendants failed to adjust his schedule to allow him to pray for a half hour on Fridays. When the man complained about not being able to pray, the suit says, the defendants supposedly fired him “on grounds of newly-invented ‘performance issues.’”