NEW ORLEANS — Pat O’Brien’s bartenders received conditional collective action status in Louisiana federal court early in February 2015. The bartenders claimed the managers at the New Orleans bar stole from the tip jar and failed to pay the employees the overtime to which they were entitled. With the conditional certification, nearly 40 additional current and former Pat O’Brien bartenders can join the collective action at this point. The potential class members will now receive notice of their right to join. Each new potential class member’s claims will need to be evaluated, but it is likely that many of them will be able to join prior to final class approval.
The two bartenders, Michael Harris and Steven Fruge, who initially filed the claim in September 2014, say they received only $5.25 an hour while working at the bar. Allegedly the managers at Pat O’Brien’s regularly took hundreds of dollars from the tip jar. The tipped employees at Pat O’Brien’s utilized a collective tip jar and would share all of the tips with each other. But, according to the complaint, the managers would remove money from the tip jar to either pay refunds to customers or to simply pocket it. The managers’ actions and the low hourly wages allegedly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Pat O’Brien’s could legally be paying the bartenders and the other tipped employees $5.25 an hour, if the bar was using the tipped wages provision of the FLSA. With tipped wages, an employer can pay hourly wages below the $7.25 federal minimum wage because it is assumed the employees will receive enough tips to bring their hourly wage up to or above $7.25 an hour. However, if the employer uses a tipped wage, neither the employer nor the non-tipped employees may share, take, or receive any of the tipped employees’ tips. Additionally, regardless of whether an employee is receiving tipped or non-tipped wages, if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, they are likely entitled to overtime wages, which Pat O’Brien’s also failed to provide.
Joining a Class or Collective Action
When an individual believes they have a claim against an employer for unpaid overtime wages, they have a couple of options. Two of those options are to bring a lawsuit as an individual based on their own individual complaints or to bring a potential class or collective action. If the individual bringing the lawsuit believes that the company’s policies and practices, which led to the alleged overtime violation, were applied to multiple employees or were companywide, then a class or collective action may be the better choice.
Class and collective actions allow many individuals to join together in a singular lawsuit, which saves time and costs, and avoids wildly different outcomes associated with individual lawsuits. However, class members who join in and accept settlements or verdicts in the class actions are generally barred from bringing their own individual claim at a later date. If you have recently received notice of a potential class action or have questions, contact our knowledgeable team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review.