The operator of Nashville’s Fairlane Hotel and Ellington’s Mid Way Bar & Grill has failed to properly pay servers and bartenders, a lawsuit out of Tennessee alleges.
The plaintiff, who worked as a bartender for defendant Oliver Hospitality, LLC from September 2019 to March 2021, says the restaurant paid her and other workers pursuant to an impermissible tip credit arrangement. The lawsuit further alleges the plaintiff was fired in retaliation for complaining about the defendant’s wage payment practices.
According to the lawsuit, Oliver Hospitality paid tipped employees a sub-minimum wage and relied on the workers’ tips to meet a portion of the restaurant’s minimum wage obligation—an arrangement known as a “tip credit.” The case alleges, however, that the defendant was not permitted to apply a tip credit to servers’ and bartenders’ wages given the workers were required to spend more than 20 percent of each shift performing non-tip-producing tasks, including times in which they had to tend to customers.
The lawsuit says tipped employees were, before or after being assigned customers or tables, required to perform various tasks that included batching syrups and juices for cocktails; cleaning the restaurant and bar; conducting inventory; ordering liquor and supplies; and setting up for events. Even while the workers were assigned customers or tables, they were nevertheless required to perform other non-tipped duties such as rolling silverware and polishing and washing dishes, the suit says.
Per the lawsuit, these non-tipped activities took up more than 20 percent of the workers’ time. The workers were paid at less than the minimum wage rate for non-tipped tasks, the suit claims.
“Thus, Plaintiff and other bartenders and servers were entitled to receive the full $7.25 per hour statutory minimum wage for every hour worked,” the case argues.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the defendant retained a portion of the tips contributed to its servers’ and bartenders’ tip pool, which, under federal law, disqualifies the restaurant from being able to apply a tip credit to the workers’ wages.
The plaintiff claims she “routinely” complained to the defendant’s management about the restaurant’s allegedly unlawful wage practices but was repeatedly ignored. After her employer continued to refuse to address her concerns, the plaintiff wrote a March 18, 2021 email in which she referenced the issues she had raised and stated that she intended to end her employment in two weeks, according to the suit. Though the plaintiff continued to attempt to address the pay discrepancies with management, the defendant terminated her employment on March 25, the case says. The plaintiff claims she was terminated in retaliation for voicing her concerns about the restaurant’s wage practices.
The lawsuit looks to cover current or former bartenders and servers who were employed by the defendant at the Fairlane Hotel and Ellington’s Mid Way Bar & Grill at any time since April 1, 2018.
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