Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: Tennessee Restaurant Chain Faces "Class Action Lawsuit" Over Classifying Security Guards As "Tipped Employees"

“…employers who rely on the tip credit are advised to determine how much time each tipped employee spends on “non-tipped” activities, and if these “non-tipped” activities constitute more than 20% of the total working time for any shift, the employer must pay the employee the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour) for all time spent on non-tipped tasks…” 

The issue in Stewart v. CUS Nashville, LLC is whether security guards at Coyote Ugly are “tipped employees” who can lawfully participate in a tip pool. Stewart was a Coyote Ugly bartender, a non-salaried tipped employee. She claims that Coyote Ugly violated the FLSA by requiring employees in her category to contribute their tips to a tip pool so the tips could be shared with, among others, security guards.

 Stewart argues that the security guards are akin to dishwashers or prep cooks and thus do not meet the definition of “tipped employees” who “customarily and regularly receive tips” under 29 U.S.C. § 203(m), (t).

Coyote Ugly argues that, based on their level of customer interaction, including “hollering” to encourage people to enter, checking identification of those who do enter, being stationed in the front of the house with patrons, assisting female patrons onto and off of the bar to dance, picking up glasses and bottles, and otherwise ensuring a safe customer experience, security guards are more akin to bus boys, maître d’s, silverware rollers, sushi chefs, and other front of the house employees who courts have held may properly share in tips.

Although premature to address the merits, the court granted conditional certification to a class of bartenders, barbacks, or waitresses at company-owned Coyote Ugly saloons who were required to share tips with security guards.

 For more:   http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5a62a28c-b81a-4014-8c9d-025b758ee10f

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