Former Hickory Tavern Server Files Wage Payment Lawsuit Against Restaurant Chain
A former server at Hickory Tavern, a North Carolina based restaurant chain, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the company paid her and hundreds of others $2.13 per hour but required them to perform work unrelated to waiting tables, for which they should have received minimum wage. The suit filed earlier this week in federal court in Winston Salem, N.C. is a collective action, meaning that other current and former Hickory Tavern employees can join the litigation. This news comes shortly after I recently wrote about another class action lawsuit related to tipped employees.
Vanessa Chavez, who worked in a Winston-Salem location, contends managers required workers to spend much of their shifts performing non-tipped tasks like cleaning and stocking. In an interview, Chavez said when she took her concerns to management, she was told she “shouldn’t complain because it is a lot worse at other places.” “I just thought it wasn’t right for them to take advantage of these servers,” said Chavez, 27, who left her job at Hickory Tavern last year after four months. “A lot of them are young and a lot of them did not know (the law).”
In this particular case, the main disagreement is likely to be whether or not the tipped employees of Hickory Tavern should have received minimum wage while performing non-tipped job duties, based on the amount of time spent on those duties. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “when an employee is employed… in both a tipped and a non-tipped occupation, the tip credit is available only for the hours spent by the employee in the tipped occupation.” The department continues by explaining, “where a tipped employee spends… in excess of 20 percent in the workweek performing [non-tipped] duties, no tip credit may be taken for [that time].” Basically, if an employee who is generally paid $2.13 per hour spends more than 20 percent of their time performing non-tipped duties, that employee at least must be paid minimum wage for that period of time.
Hickory Tavern conducts business in South Carolina, making it possible that some of our fellow South Carolinians qualify to join this class action lawsuit. In fact, lawsuits involving violations of state labor laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which govern minimum wage and overtime rules, are becoming increasingly common. If you feel that you have not been paid for hours worked, call us today for a free consultation at (803) 252-4800. You can also learn more about your rights as an employee and what to do in an employment dispute at our South Carolina Employment Lawyers Page.