A recent lawsuit filed against the restaurant chain, Sushi Ai, alleges that the company not only forced servers to share their tips with sushi chefs, but also required those servers to pay monetary fines with money taken out of their tips.
Servers who worked at the St. Louis-based sushi chain were fined whenever they were late to work, broke dishes, or waited on customers who returned their food because of a server error. The lawsuit also claims that there were more infractions in addition to those previously listed. The workplace fines were allegedly taken out of the tips the servers earned during their shifts.
A former server who claims she was retaliated against for complaining about the policies filed a lawsuit that is seeking class-action status to represent other workers who were mistreated like her.
Sushi Ai first opened in 2010 and has since expanded to three locations in the metro area, with restaurants in Midtown, Clayton and St. Charles.
According to the details contained in the lawsuit, federal law allows restaurants to pay their servers less than minimum wage, if they receive gratuities from their customers. However, restaurants that want to take advantage of those lowered wages have to meet certain conditions. One of these conditions is that servers are allowed to keep their tips.
While tip sharing can take place, under the law, only employees who directly interact with customers are allowed to be a part of it. Chefs and food prep workers are excluded from tip sharing pools.
The lawsuit says that at Sushi Ai, customers don't actually place their orders with sushi chefs, and the chefs never hand them their food directly. In addition to these details, the suit claims that most of the sushi chefs don't speak English, and cannot "communicate effectively with patrons." Despite this, the suit says that sushi chefs were allowed to partake in the restaurants' tip pool.
In the lawsuit, the Plaintiff, who worked as a server at Sushi Ai from March 2016 until March 8, 2018, claims that she was fired after complaining about the tip-sharing and the fines taken out of the tip pool. Her suit names the company's owner, Chen's Inc., as well as owner/managers Jian Li Chen and Ron Huang. Our attorney Russell Riggan is representing the Plaintiff in this case.
If you think you employer has violated your labor rights, you should immediately consult with our team of lawyers. Contact our Missouri employment law attorneys to talk about your case today.