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Another High-Profile Celebrity Chef Sued for Minimum Wage, Tip Violations

April 4, 2012

In our Newport Beach labor and employment blog, Vincent Howard continues to report on the latest developments in a series of high-profile wage and hour lawsuit settlements, where a number of celebrity chefs and restaurants have been accused of violating the minimum wage, overtime and tipping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

As our Carson labor lawyer blog reported yesterday, the well-known banquet hall in New York, Pier Sixty, agreed to settle a class action wage and hour lawsuit this week for $8.5 million, filed by restaurant workers who claim that the hall skimmed their tips and failed to compensate them with proper overtime pay. Last month Chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, his business partner and judge on "Master Chef," the popular television show, agreed to settle a wage and hour lawsuit for $5.25 million, after also being accused of illegally skimming employee tips.

In a recent report that Vincent Howard has been following, another "Master Chef" judge, celebrity Chef Graham Elliot, has been sued in a similar wage and hour lawsuit filed in Illinois, after a waiter claimed he was denied minimum wage and made to participate in an illegal tip pooling share with other employees who would not customarily receive tips.

The former waiter, Gregory Curtis, claims in the lawsuit that as a waiter for the restaurant "Graham Elliot," one of Elliot's popular eateries, he was forced to participate a tip pooling arrangement with other staff members including bussers and bartenders, but also cooks and food runners--employees who do not customarily receive tips. Curtis claims that he was illegally forced to share tips with these cooks and food runners, and as a result of the tip pool, his minimum wage should have been higher than the tipped employee minimum wage.

As Vincent Howard reported in a related San Bernardino labor and employment attorneys blog, under the FLSA, tipped employees are considered as workers who customarily and regularly receive over $30 per month in tips, and can be paid the minimum wage of $2.13 in hourly wages, as long as the total receive tips equal at least $7.25, the federal minimum wage. If the employee's combined tips and direct wages do not equal the federal minimum wage, then the employer is required to pay the difference.

Under the FLSA, the employer is prohibited from using an employee's tips for any reason other than as a credit against the minimum wage obligation, or a valid tip pool. A valid tip pool includes employees who regularly or customarily receive tips, such as bussers, wait staff, and bartenders, but not cooks, chefs, dishwashers or janitors--or any other employees who do not regularly or customarily receive tips.

In Escondido, Pomona and Fontana, California, contact Vincent Howard, Howard Law's labor and employment attorney today, for a free consultation about your California wage and hour issue.

Graham Elliot Gets Sued by Former Server, Chicago Eater, March 16, 2012

'MasterChef' Graham Elliot Sued Stop Giving Away My Tips!, TMZ, March 16, 2012

'MasterChef' judge's copycat lawsuit, The New York Post, March 19, 2012

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

Related Blog Posts:

Pier Sixty Banquet Hall Staff to Receive $8.5M in Settlement over Tips, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 3, 2012

Meat Packing Workers Receive Nearly $164K in Overtime Back Pay after FLSA Violations, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 22, 2012

California Restaurant Ordered to Pay Workers Nearly $404K in Back Wages, Damages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 18, 2012

DOL Launches Employee Misclassification Initiative in Seattle-based Nail Salons, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 12, 2012

Celebrity Chef Mario Batali to Pay $5.25M in Class Action Wage and Hour Lawsuit, Settlement Over Tips, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 8, 2012

Restaurant Pays $83K in Back Wages for Overtime, Minimum Wage Violations of FLSA, California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 17, 2011

DOL Continues to Track Down Federal Wage and Hour Law Violations in the Workplace, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 8, 2011

Another DOL Investigation Brings Restaurant Employees $275K in Overtime Back Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2011

Taqueria Restaurant to Pay Workers Nearly $250K in Overtime Back Pay and Minimum Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 15, 2011

Feds Crack Down on Wage and Hour Violations in NY Restaurants, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 15, 2011

Mexican Restaurants To Pay Over $1M in Back Wages and Overtime, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 1, 2011

DOL Wage and Hour Division Audits for Low Wage Industry Violations, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 20, 2010