Austin Employment Attorney Highlights Severity of Claims in Restaurant Wage and Overtime Case
Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 6, 2012 – A popular Mexican food restaurant chain in Texas faces allegations of violating federal employment laws. Wait staff claim they were denied overtime pay, forced to give tips to ineligible employees, and required to pay for broken items and “walked tabs”. These practices allegedly occurred for years before a lawsuit was filed by the wait staff in early February 2012.“These actions, if true, are illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Austin employment lawyer Gregory D. Jordan. “I have handled many of these cases for both employers and employees over the past 20 or so years and I can unequivocally say that FLSA claims can be very dangerous to employers, especially if they do not have qualified legal counsel. Employees can recover lost wages, liquidated damages, costs and attorneys fees,” notes Jordan. “If a group of employees band together, their claims can grow quite large quite quickly,” continued the Austin employment attorney.
Iron Cactus operates two Austin locations, with its flagship location on Sixth Street that has been open for 16 years. Other restaurants are located in Dallas and San Antonio. In Joshua Covey, et al v. Iron Cactus, et al., the plaintiffs claim that Iron Cactus’ violations of the FLSA were committed in bad faith. The restaurant’s owner and management deny they harmed the wait staff.
The FLSA sometimes allows employers to pay tipped staff less than minimum wage. This tip credit lets employers calculate an employee’s wages by incorporating what they receive in tips. Employers must notify their workers of this practice before using it. Tip credits are not allowed to be applied to employees who are ineligible for this type of pay or who are not notified of such practice. The Iron Cactus complaint alleges that waiters had to share tips with food expeditors, for example, which is generally an ineligible category for receiving tips. When waiters had to pay for broken glasses, plates, and walked tabs, pay allegedly fell below the minimum required. Waiters also assert they were not paid overtime wages for time worked over the 40 hour work week.
“Subsidizing the pay of other non-tipped employees not only can cause tension in the wait staff, but it is often against the FLSA,” said Jordan. “As overtime and wage disputes can be complex and very costly to both employees and employers, it is important to contact legal counsel early on. Employers are well advised to consult qualified employment counsel with any wage or payment questions before any dispute arises.”
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