Hard Rock Cafe Servers Claim Illegal Tip Pooling

posted by Scott Behren  |  Jun 4, 2010 8:21 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

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Well the national chain of Hard Rock Cafe restaurants have recently been hit with a lawsuit under the FLSA complaining about its tip handling procedures.

The allegations of the Complaint allege that Hard Rock broke the law by paying waitstaff an hourly rate less than the federal minimum wage and forcing them to turn over a portion of their tips to nonwaitstaff employees, according to an amended complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Waitstaff have not been allowed to take a tip credit against the minimum wage as they are entitled to under the law, according to the complaint.

While the gratuity/service charge for private dining events held at Hard Rock restaurants typically ranges between 18 and 20 percent, that money is allegedly retained by the company.

The Complaint further alleges that the restaurant chain is unjustly enriched through the misrepresentation of this charge as a gratuity and tortiously interferes with the employees' relationship with customers, who reasonably believe the service charge goes to the waitstaff, according to the complaint.

The FLSA exempts waitstaff employees from the minimum wage provided they receive tips for their services, and these tips can be shared with bussers and bartenders who also participate directly with the serving of the food, according to Schwab.

However, people who are not directly involved in the serving of food, such as managers or kitchen workers, are not entitled to a share of tips for the waitstaff.

The bottom line is if you are a tipped employee and not getting all of your tips, you should speak with an experienced employment or FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) attorney to discuss whether you have a legal cause of action.

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