DALLAS — Brinker International, Inc. (Brinker), a Dallas corporation, which owns and operates over 800 Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurants, is facing a serious wage and hour lawsuit that alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other state wage and hour laws.
At issue, is Brinker’s policy of requiring servers to share their tips with expos.
Brinker utilizes a tip credit to satisfy their minimum wage obligations to their servers; however, then requires that the servers share those tips with Expos, who have very minimal customer interaction.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
However, employers may claim a tip credit to reduce the hourly wage that they are required to pay to employees who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips from customers.
This tip credit to the employer is meant to reflect the cash wages the employee receives while working and permits the employer to pay an hourly rate less than $7.25 per hour.
The tip credit may not exceed the amount of tips the employee actually receives. Furthermore, the employer is prohibited from using an employee’s tips for any reason other than as a credit against its minimum wage obligation or in furtherance of a valid tip pool.
A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as: dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors.
In the present lawsuit against Brinker, the Plaintiffs alleged that “Expos” were not employees that customarily and regularly receive tips of more than $30 per month from customers.
The Plaintiffs’ Complaint explained that Brinker forfeit the right to claim a tip credit by requiring servers to share tips with Expos.
The expos rarely, if ever, leave the setup area in the kitchen. Accordingly, it was alleged that the tip pool at Chili’s that required servers to share their tips with expediters was illegal.
Without the benefit of the tip credit provision, the employer must pay each employee the statutory minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The lawsuit claims that with no tip credit, Brinker was not paying the servers minimum wage under state and federal law.
The Fair Labor Standards Act permits employees to recover liquidated damages or double the amount that is owed to them when the employer’s violation of the Act is willful, knowing, intentional, or reckless.
The Act also allows the Plaintiff to recovery all reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred in the course of the litigation.