The Columbus Dispatch (10/15/14) reports that Rhonda Sanchez filed the lawsuit against El Vaquero restaurants, alleging failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime and forcing employees to share tips with restaurant owners. In September, US District Judge Algenon L. Marbley granted class-action status to the lawsuit, creating the potential for approximately 450 more claimants to join.
In making his ruling, the judge noted that the “Plaintiff has met the ‘fairly lenient standard’ necessary to demonstrate that FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] conditional collective action certification is appropriate."
“In support of her claims, Plaintiff has offered significant evidence of the alleged violations,” the judge ruled. The evidence included documentation of “Weekly Time Sheets” that were compared with official “Payroll Register” printouts, which alleged that employees were only paid overtime on a two-week/80-hour basis.
It is legal in Ohio for servers to be paid a “tipped” minimum wage, which is half of the regular minimum wage. For restaurants to do this, however, the servers must be able to make up the difference between “tipped” minimum wage and regular minimum wage with their tips. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the minimum wage was $7.70 an hour. Tipped employees could be paid $3.85 an hour, provided they made enough in tips to make up the difference.
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According to court documents, the servers’ tipped minimum wage was based only on the servers’ scheduled hours, not the hours a server actually worked. The plaintiffs allege that servers regularly worked hours in excess of those they were scheduled for and that when they worked overtime they were often paid either straight time or nothing for their overtime hours.
The lawsuit (case number 2:12-cv-650) was filed in July 2012 by Sanchez and Renae Castillo, who reportedly settled with the restaurant chain for around $42,000.