Babu Ji, a well-known New York City eatery, is facing its second class action lawsuit alleging wage violations by the owners of the restaurant. The complaint filed in the Southern District of New York in September 2016 claims that Jennifer and Jessi Singh failed to pay minimum wages, stole tips from employees, violated rules about tip-credits, and did not provide proper wage notices to workers.
This suit comes on the heels of a case filed a few months earlier by two employees. That case settled for $95,000, the final $31,000 of which was due to be paid on January 31, 2017. According to Eater, the Singh’s lawyer filed a motion in February to vacate the settlement, stating that it was “reached mistakenly.”
Several things are true under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) about restaurant food service workers:
The lawsuit alleges that from May through December 2015, employees did not receive any overtime pay. The suit claims that employees received a flat wage of $600 every seven days, regardless of the number of hours they were working, which in many instances was up to 60 hours per week. Under the FLSA, most employees who are not managers or executives must receive time and a half for all hours worked above 40 in a given workweek.
The plaintiffs in this second suit also claim that during the same period, the owners stole the cash tips and those left on credit cards which belong to the employees. Tips are the property of the tipped-worker, which means waiters, waitresses, bartenders and other “front of house” employees. Tips may not be shared with or given to managers, owners or other employees who don’t regularly work for tips.
Furthermore, the owners allegedly failed to notify workers that they would be using a tip credit. The plaintiffs claim that the failure to give notice precludes the employer from applying tip-credit allowances to the minimum wage.
In an amended complaint, the plaintiffs filed in February 2017, one of the plaintiffs, a waiter, claims that Jessi Singh made serious threats of violence against him and his family.
According to the complaint, Singh also said to this employee, “You already screwed me up by suing so why are you coming to work?” Singh allegedly approached another server later that night, swore at him and threatened to file a lawsuit against him. As the Eater article unequivocally states, “Threats of retaliation for filing a wage lawsuit are in violation of both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as New York labor law.”
By all indications, Babu Ji in NYC is closed for now. It remains to be seen how this new case is resolved and whether the initial settlement will hold up. Restaurant owners and workers, however, should continue to be aware of their rights and obligations under both federal, state and city laws. Remember, minimum wages, overtime pay, tip-credit allowances, and payment of gratuities are all governed by specific rules and regulations.
Leeds Brown Law, P.C., unpaid wage lawyers taking cases in New York City and the surrounding areas, understand the federal, state and city laws that govern your hours and your wages. Contact us if you have questions about your pay or other important employment rights you possess.
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