On August 19, 2014, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis employment law firm, filed a class and collective action wage lawsuit against Colton's Steak House & Grill. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a class of tipped employees, such as servers and bartenders, alleges that Colton's violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and Missouri Minimum Wage Law ("MMWL") by misappropriating wages from employees by implementing and enforcing an unlawful tip pooling/sharing policy. Specifically, the suit alleges that Colton's requires its servers, bartenders, and other tipped employees to participate in an unlawful tip pooling/sharing arrangement whereby the tipped employees have to share their tips with "back of the house" employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as cooks, dishwashers, and/or food preparers. The suit seeks recovery of unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and court costs on behalf of the class.
Missouri and federal law allow restaurants to pay certain tipped employees less than the full minimum wage (currently $7.50/hour under Missouri law; $7.30/hour under federal law) by claiming the tips paid by restaurant patrons as a credit against the minimum wage. The lesser minimum wage (or "server minimum wage" as it is sometimes called) is currently $3.75/hour under Missouri law, and $2.13/hour under federal law). However, in order to take advantage of the "tip credit," an employer must meet certain notice requirements and follow a certain set of rules. Failure to meet/follow these requirements/rules results in the employer's loss of the tip credit being applied to its minimum wage obligations, and as a result, payment of the server minimum wage by the employer amounts to a violation of the law. For more information on laws relating to tipped employees, click here.
In addition, the suit also alleges that Colton's unlawfully discriminated against and terminated the employment of the lead/representative Plaintiff (who worked as a server and bartender at Colton's) in retaliation for him engaging in legally protected activity, including making complaints to Colton's about their unlawful wage practices and communicating with other Colton's employees about the wage violations and pursuing legal claims for unpaid wages.
If you would like more information about this case against Colton's, or if you have questions about your employer's pay policies or believe your rights have been violated, you should contact a St. Louis employment lawyer.