A proposed collective action claims the operators of around 50 Fogo De Chao Brazilian steakhouses have failed to pay servers, bartenders and carvers proper wages in accordance with state and federal law.
The 22-page lawsuit, which was transferred from Pennsylvania to Texas federal court on February 9, 2021, claims the slate of defendants paid the workers from an unlawful tip pool that included non-tipped employees, which should have precluded the restaurants from being allowed to claim a tip credit on their wages. Per the suit, Fogo De Chao employees should have been paid the full minimum wage under federal, New York and Pennsylvania state laws.
Filed against nearly 50 defendants who respectively operate Fogo De Chao steakhouse locations across the United States, the lawsuit says all servers, bartenders and carvers (churrasqueiros) are paid a sub-minimum wage plus tips. In order to pay workers pursuant to a tip credit arrangement, employers must allow the individuals to keep all of their tips, either individually or through a valid tip pool consisting only of tipped employees, the suit states.
Notwithstanding these requirements, Fogo de Chao required servers, bartenders and carvers to participate in a tip pool from which traditionally non-tipped employees were paid, the suit alleges. More specifically, the case claims the tip pool included certain carvers who worked in the kitchen seasoning meats, placing them on skewers and loading them into rotisserie machines during all or most of their shifts. These employees participated in the tip pool despite the fact that they were dedicated kitchen workers who did not serve customers, the lawsuit says.
The complaint goes on to claim that a customer service representative in at least one Fogo De Chao location was included in the tip pool even though the worker was considered a management employee, paid more than the full minimum wage, and did not regularly receive tips from customers. Per the case, the customer service rep was responsible for observing the service provided by servers and carvers, making sure they were dressed adequately, advising them when their shifts were over, and reprimanding them. The rep allegedly had the authority to “comp” customers’ meals and wore a different uniform than the typical server and carver.
“Clearly, Customer Service Representative(s) should not be included in the tip pool,” the lawsuit alleges.
The case claims the defendants owe servers, bartenders and carvers repayment for the tip credit taken from their wages for each hour worked due to Fogo De Chao’s allegedly unlawful tip pool arrangement.
The lawsuit looks to cover all servers, bartenders and carvers (churrasqueiros) who worked for the defendants nationwide, except in Florida, during the past three years and were not paid the full and proper minimum wage as a result of the restaurants’ tip pooling practices.
The full list of defendants can be found in the complaint below.
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