On March 14, 2012, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis wage and hour law firm, working in connection with Dashtaki Law Firm, LLC, filed a class action wage lawsuit against HotShots Sports Bar & Grill, which has several locations in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
The lawsuit--filed on behalf of a class of servers, bartenders, and other tipped employees--alleges that HotShots violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Missouri law by misappropriating wages from its employees by implementing and enforcing anunlawful tip pooling policy. The suit alleges that this unlawful tip policy caused employees to be paid below minimum wage, in violation of the law. In addition to their unpaid wages, the class members in the lawsuit seek recovery of liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and court costs.
The current minimum wage, under both federal and Missouri law, is $7.30 per hour. The law allows restaurants and other employers to pay certain tipped employees less than the full minimum wage and then take a credit (called the "tip credit") for tips that employees receive from customers. Under federal law, the "server minimum wage" is $2.13 per hour, and under Missouri law is $3.63 per hour. Missouri employers are required to follow Missouri law because it is more beneficial to employees.
Tip pooling is a common practice in the restaurant industry. A tip pool is a policy that requires employees such as servers to share their tips with other employees who assist them in serving customers, such as bussers.
In order to take advantage of the tip credit, an employer must strictly follow certain rules. First, the employer must give employees notice that it intends to take a credit against the minimum wage for all tips earned by employees. Second, in implementing a tip pool, tipped employees cannot be required to share their tips with employees who do not regularly and customarily receive tips, such as "back of the house" employees (cooks, food preparers, dishwashers, etc.) and managers. A failure to follow these rules invalidates a tip pool, and under the law, all tips paid to employees are disregarded for purposes of calculating whether they were paid at least minimum wage.
If you are a tipped employee, and you are required to share tips with back of the house employees or managers, you may be entitled to additional pay under the law. If you wish to assert a claim or better understand your rights to fair pay, you should contact a Missouri wage and hour lawyer.