TGI Fridays ‘Side Work’ Shafts Tipped Workers, Suit Says

Law360 Pete Brush
April 18, 2014

Tipped T.G.I. Fridays workers on Thursday hit the chain restaurant with a class action lawsuit in New York federal court claiming it owes them for overtime, minimum wage violations and misappropriated tips for many hours of nontipped “side work” they are required to perform.

Named plaintiffs Jamel Flood, Ira Heaston, Isaac Heaston and Josphine Diaz are seeking potentially very costly wage payback, overtime and other damages from the chain, whose corporate parent is hospitality industry giant Carlson Restaurants Inc.

The proposed classes under New York and federal law in the 10-court filing include current and former servers, bussers, runners, bartenders, barbacks and hosts.

“Defendants maintain a policy and practice whereby tipped workers are required to spend a substantial amount of time performing non-tip producing ‘side work,'” including cleaning, food preparation and stocking, the suit says, adding that the restaurants pay less than required for the work under minimum wage laws for tipped workers.

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The plaintiffs are entitled to the full minimum wage as opposed to the lesser minimum wage for tipped workers when doing side work, the suit contends.

Moreover, according to the suit, tipped workers are pushed by managers to do side work while off the clock if they approach eligibility to earn overtime in any given week. In those instances the workers claim they are pressured to “punch in only after they have received their first customer” and do side work off the clock, the suit says.

In addition servers are unlawfully required to share tips with ineligible workers including those who roll silverware and prepare plates with garnishes so-called expeditors, according to the complaint.

Workers also are required to keep the uniforms clean and wrinkle-free but are not provided with additional uniforms or laundering services, the suit says.

T.G.I. Friday’s made $2.7 billion in revenue in 2013, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are represented by Justin M. Swartz and Sally J. Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP and by Joseph A. Fitapelli, Brian S. Schaffer and Frank J. Mazzaferro of Fitapelli & Shaffer LLP.

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The case is Flood et al. v. Carlson Restaurants et al., case number 14-cv-02740, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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