PHILADELPHIA — A former line cook for high-end Philadelphia restaurant Talula’s Garden and other employees are considering legal action against their employer for wage theft and unpaid overtime on the heels of a federal investigation by the Department of Labor. The incident is just the latest case in a string of wage theft and employment law allegations against prominent East Coast restaurateur Stephen Starr and his businesses.
The Labor Department began its investigation after receiving a federal complaint from the line cook alleging he and others at the farm to table restaurant were forced to work anywhere from three to four hours off the clock before their shifts started every day. Some involved with the restaurant described the practice as “French style” overtime, where cooks would “voluntarily” come in to help their fellow workers prep for the coming dinner shift.
The gentleman in this case claims that he was informed during his initial employment interview about the practice, noting the person conducting the interview even mentioned it was illegal for the company to imply workers take part in the practice. According to the individual in this case, working off the clock was seen as a right of passage and helped build comradery until the extra hours with nothing to show took their toll.
Since the Labor Department investigation began and more information about the restaurant has come to light, others working at Talula’s Garden are considering filing unpaid overtime and wage theft lawsuits against their employer. As many as 40 individuals could be involved in such litigation, though at this point indications are that some would prefer to change the company’s employment practices and reach an out of court settlement.
Stephen Starr came under previous scrutiny after employees in New York and Florida filed separate lawsuits alleging various types of wage theft and labor law violations. Litigation in one of those cases is still ongoing while one suit was dropped and refiled against another defendant.
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