Last month, a federal judge decided not to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of bartenders employed by the nightclub Coyote Ugly. The bartenders' lawsuit alleges multiple violations of minimum wage and overtime laws.
As noted elsewhere on this blog, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") requires that most employees be paid at least the minimum wage for all time spent working, and one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for all overtime hours worked (all hours over forty worked in a given workweek). Coyote Ugly allegedly violated both of these FLSA provisions.
The bartenders suing Coyote Ugly claim that they were not paid for time they spent attending several mandatory meetings. Moreover, they claim that they were not paid for the time they spent working during lunch breaks. The bartenders assert that they did not actually take many of these "lunch breaks," and that the lunch breaks they did take were so short that they were actually short work breaks (which the FLSA requires employers to pay for).
In addition to these FLSA violations, the bartenders claim that Coyote Ugly's tip pooling policy violates the FLSA. Employees who share tips received are said to participate in "tip pooling." Under the FLSA, an employer can require employees to participate in tip pools. However, tip pools can only include employees who regularly and customarily receive more than $30+ in tips per month. For example, waiters, counter personnel, busboys/girls, and service bartenders can sometimes be included in tip pools; dishwashers, janitors, and chefs typically cannot. In this case, the bartenders were required to share their tips with bouncers who, they assert, do not regularly and customarily receive tips.
If you work as a server or bartender, and you believe that your rights to fair pay are being violated, or if you need more information to better understand your rights, you should contact a St. Louis wage and hour attorney.