A Splash in the Tip Pool: Even elite New York restaurants steal workers’ wages

Employees of the five-star Boulud restaurants filed a multimillion dollar class action lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court in June 2014. Hundreds of restaurants, including those in the top-tier, are operating illegally when they force employees to share their tips with workers who are not serving. Many restaurant workers are not being paid fair wages: they earn less than minimum wage without tips and are also illegally required to perform un-tipped tasks. Their gratuity money ends up going to managers and sometimes even owners, like millionaire celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. The attorneys bringing suit against him and his company allege that his employees were denied minimum wage and overtime compensation. The restaurants unlawfully took their tip money and retained gratuities made by customers under the impression they were tipping their servers.

Restaurant employees throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn are forced to work their entire careers earning a fraction of their rightful pay. These businesses are in violation of the Department of Labor—they are breaking the law. Workers who do not serve tables or bartend cannot legally pool their tips with kitchen staff, hosts, or managers. Although many restaurants do this, it should be considered theft and a flagrant violation of labor laws.

As major-name eateries are brought to justice, more and more confrontations are likely. Only one current or former employee needs to come forward for employment attorneys to file a class action lawsuit. Servers Edison Lopez, Carlos Cruz Cacildo, and Justin Wands are suing Boulud on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. This is an efficient and safe way of seeking to recover unpaid wages and cash damages they are owed.