WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Sushi Samba, which operates a chain of restaurants in several states, has agreed to settle a wage suit filed by a group of workers for $2.7 million. The proposed settlement has been submitted for approval to a federal court in New York, and would settle claims that allege the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The class covers servers, bussers, runners, bartenders, and hosts at six overall locations in New York city, Florida, Chicago, and Las Vegas who worked beginning May 2009 up to the time that the settlement receives preliminary approval. The proposed settlement would provide the named plaintiffs with $50,000 in service payments, pay a third of the settlement amount in attorneys’ fees, and divide the remaining amount to the rest of the class members on a prorated, weighted basis.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Claims
According to the lawsuit, the restaurant chain violated FLSA and New York State labor laws by not paying workers for all hours worked, failing to pay overtime when the workers labored for more than 40 hours in a week, and taking money from a tip pool to give to sushi chefs who apparently did not interact with customers. In response, Sushi Samba argued that the sushi chefs were entitled to share the tip pool because they interacted with customers at the sushi bar, where they not only made sushi but put on a performance for customers.
Tip Pools Under FLSA
FLSA allows valid tip pooling or sharing arrangements among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel who serve customers, bussers, and service bartenders. A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors. FLSA does not impose a maximum contribution amount or percentage on valid mandatory tip pools. The employer, however, must notify tipped employees of any required tip pool contribution amount, may only take a tip credit for the amount of tips each tipped employee receives, and is not permitted to retain of the employees’ tips for any other purpose.
Additionally, an opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor states that the agency believes sushi chefs may participate in tip pools since they provide similar customer service as counter persons.
Tipped employees are subject to special rules under FLSA, but are still covered by its minimum wage and overtime protection. If you are a tipped employee, and you believe that your tipping arrangement violates your FLSA rights in some way, you should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.