Mother of Cancer Victim Wins Appeal on Her FMLA Claims

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has reversed the dismissal of a Jacksonville woman’s FMLA claims, giving new life to her lawsuit against her former employer. The court’s opinion is a strong reminder of how frequently trial courts overstep their authority by dismissing employees’ lawsuits rather than allowing a jury to hear the evidence.

The plaintiff (“Benz”) was a warehouse manager for Crowley Maritime Corporation and Crowley Logistics, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had worked for nearly 12 years. Throughout her career at Crowley, Benz received numerous promotions, awards, and glowing performance reviews, including her last one in February 2014.

In July 2014, Benz’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer, as a result of which Benz took one month of FMLA leave to care for her daughter. The day before her leave began, a senior Crowley manager emailed Benz’s immediate superior and stated that she was “concern[ed] about this FML from [Benz]” and that “we should sit and have a backup plan in place.” While Benz was not terminated in 2014, following that month-long leave, her superiors began amassing a pile of written complaints against Benz, but without informing Benz of any serious problems.  In October, the corporate manager sent an email about the alleged problems with Benz’s performance and noted that “[w]e do have enough to let [her] go at this time.” Another Crowley manager delayed the planned termination until after Christmas, but December and January passed with no action taken.

In January, Benz took a week of FMLA leave to be with her daughter while she received cancer treatment in Texas. Immediately after she requested the leave, her superiors began emailing each other about terminating her. Finally, on February 4, Benz requested another month of FMLA leave to continue caring for her daughter. HR approved the request, but the next day the same senior manager made the decision to terminate her employment. The managers who personally terminated Benz told her it was due to “budget cuts” and did not mention any kind of performance issues.

Benz sued claiming that Crowley interfered with her FMLA rights and retaliated against her for exercising her FMLA rights. The trial court in Jacksonville ultimately dismissed Benz’s case on summary judgment concluding that the plaintiff had not made a connection between the FMLA leave and the termination decision. The trial court also dismissively complained that it was not a “super-personnel department” and stated that it would not “examin[e] the wisdom” of Crowley’s business decisions.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit properly construed the evidence on summary judgment in the plaintiff’s favor—as the trial could should have done—and concluded that a termination just two days after Benz’s FMLA request was adequate to allow a jury to conclude that it was retaliatory.

Proving discriminatory or retaliatory intent is undoubtedly the most difficult hurdle an employee faces in litigation. Many district courts are more than happy to simply accept the employer’s version of events as true and ignore circumstantial evidence of intent. It is heartening to see that in this case the 11th Circuit was willing to ensure that this plaintiff is able to put her evidence in front of a jury.

The plaintiff is this case was represented by attorneys Kirsten Doolittle and Scott T. Fortune. The appeal is captioned Benz v. Crowley Maritime Corporate et al., No. 16-17363 (11th Cir.), on appeal from the Middle District of Florida.

Exotic Dancers Prevail at Jury Trial Against Swinging Richards

Last Wednesday, a federal jury in Atlanta returned a verdict against the well known male strip club Swinging Richards in favor of 5 current and former exotic dancers, awarding them over $322,000 in back wages. This jury verdict follows a $1.36 million settlement the club reached with 37 other exotic dancers in 2017.

The five dancers filed suit in 2015 and 2016 alleging that Swinging Richards and its owner, C.B. Jones II, had not paid them any wages whatsoever for years on end and had required them to pay various fees and fines each shift for the privilege of working.  Last year, the court determined as a matter of law that the dancers should have been classified as employees rather than independent contractors and that they were entitled to recover $7.25 for each hour worked and to recover the fees and fines that they were illegally required to pay to work.  As a result, the jury was asked only to determine the amounts of damages for each dancer. The jury’s verdict awarded each of the dancers essentially 100% of the damages they were seeking.

The jury was also asked to determine whether the club and its owner had retaliated against one of the dancers by forcing him to withdraw from the earlier collective action in order to be rehired. At trial, the jury heard testimony from the club’s former general manager, Matt Colunga, who testified that owner C.B. Jones specifically told him not to rehire the dancer because he had joined the previous case. Colunga also testified that, in some cases, Jones told him to bribe dancers to get them to drop their claims. At the end of trial, the jury found that the dancer had been retaliated against and awarded him the back wages that he could have recovered in the previous case were it not for his coerced withdrawal.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is the federal law that established the requirement to pay covered workers a minimum wage and overtime premiums. Employees who file claims under the FLSA or make formal complaints about failure to pay minimum wages or overtime are protected from retaliation by their employers. The FLSA also provides that employees who have been denied wages are entitled to receive double damages. For this reason, the $322,000 that the jury awarded to the Swinging Richards dancers will almost certainly be doubled by the court to $644,000, plus their attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.

The 5 dancers were represented by Mitchell D. Benjamin and Matthew W. Herrington of the law firm DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. The case is captioned Casey et al. v. 1400 Northside Drive, Inc. et al., 1:16-cv-4517-SCJ (N.D. Ga.)

Bartender Who Worked for Tips Only Wins $98,000 Judgment Against Atlanta Nightclub

While the restaurant and bar industry is rife with minimum wage and overtime violations, one of the most egregious ways that these employers cheat workers is by forcing tipped employees to work for tips only. While employers are entitled to offset a portion of the federal minimum wage with tips, they must pay at least $2.13 per hour to tipped employees each week or lose the ability to claim any tip credit at all. Yesterday, one Atlanta nightclub and its owner learned this lesson the hard way.

On Wednesday, a federal judge issued a $98,000 judgment against Blue Ivory Restaurant and Lounge in favor of a former bartender and waitress. This judgment included $39,000 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime, plus another $39,000 in liquidated damages and $20,000 in attorney’s fees.

In her complaint, the bartender alleged that she worked for Blue Ivory and its owner, Trederick Gray, from late-December 2014 through December 10, 2016, that she received no wages at all, having been told that she would work for tips only. At first, the Defendants simply ignored the lawsuit, which resulted in the court placing them in default. The defendants eventually attempted multiple times to have the default lifted but the court refused to do so, finding that they had failed to show any good cause for lifting the default. Because of this, the defendants’ liability was admitted and the only issues remaining to be determined were the plaintiff’s damages.

During the damages hearing on Wednesday, the plaintiff testified that all of the serving and bartending staff at Blue Ivory had been forced to worked for tips only, and that owner Trederick Gray had stated to her repeatedly that he didn’t see any purpose in paying bartenders and servers. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court accepted the plaintiff’s calculation of her unpaid wages and granted her 100% of what she had requested.

The plaintiff in this case was represented by Charles R. Bridgers and Matthew W. Herrington of DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. The case is captioned Floyd v. Blue Ivory Restaurant, LLC et al., 1:17cv443-TWT (N.D. Ga.).

Supreme Court Guts Rule Limiting FLSA Exemptions

In yet another sign that Donald Trump’s election will have devastating effects on American workers for decades to come, today the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion that not only expanded the FLSA’s automobile dealership exemption, but also eliminated the decades-old principle that courts should construe the minimum wage and overtime exemptions narrowly.

In Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro et al., the Court considered a case out of California in which a car dealership treated its “service advisors” as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime pay requirement. The dealership relied on the exemption found at 29 U. S. C. § 213(b)(10)(A), which exempts “any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles,trucks, or farm implements.” While the District Court found the service advisors to be exempt, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the exemption was ambiguous and that the Department of Labor’s regulation distinguishing non-exempt service advisors from exempt salesmen. Finally, the Supreme Court considered the case and, in a majority opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, reversed the Ninth Circuit (and with it, the Department of Labor).

The Court’s primary holding—that service advisors qualify as “salesmen” who “service automobiles” was based primarily on analysis of the grammatical structure of the exemption’s text. Notably, the majority rejected the Ninth Circuit’s reliance on the Department of Labor guidelines that were in place when the exemption became law and the legislative history of the § 213 exemptions.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented from the majority opinion. The dissenters noted that

Service advisors, such as respondents, neither sell automobiles nor service (i.e., repair or maintain) vehicles. Rather, they “meet and greet [car]owners”; “solicit and sugges[t]” repair services “to remedythe [owner’s] complaints”; “solicit and suggest . . . supplemental [vehicle] service[s]”; and provide owners with cost estimates. App. 55. Because service advisors neither sell nor repair automobiles, they should remain outside the exemption and within the Act’s coverage.

 Congress confined the dealership exemption to three categories of employees: automobile salesmen, mechanics, and partsmen. . . . Congress did not exempt numerous other categories of dealership employees, among them, automobile painters, upholsterers, bookkeeping workers, cashiers, janitors, purchasing agents, shipping and receiving clerks, and, most relevant here, service advisors. These positions and their duties were well known at the time, as documented in U. S. Government catalogs of American jobs.

The dissenters also noted that the exemption’s original rationale was largely based on the fact that salesmen can be asked to work irregular schedules with wildly fluctuating hours, while service advisors “wor[k] ordinary, fixed schedules on-site.”

The Court’s conservative majority could have simply relied on their interpretation of the exemption’s text to reach the decision that they did. But they were not content to issue a narrow opinion that would simply resolve the issue in this case. Instead, the majority gratuitously overturned more than a half-century of precedent under which Courts have uniformly construed FLSA exemptions “narrowly.” The majority noted that the Ninth Circuit had “also invoked the principle that exemptions to the FLSA should be construed narrowly” and then immediately “reject[s] this principle as a useful guidepost for interpreting the FLSA.” Thus, in a single paragraph and virtually without analysis, the conservative majority demolished over half a century of precedent that has guided courts across the nation. They ignore the fact that all amendments to the FLSA since the 1960’s have been made with the underlying assumption that its exemptions would be construed narrowly.

The dissent noted this large departure from established precedent in a footnote:

This Court has long held that FLSA “exemptions are to be narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them and their application limited to those [cases] plainly and unmistakably within their terms and spirit.” Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U. S. 388, 392 (1960). This principle is a well-grounded application of the general rule that an “exception to a general statement of policy is usually read. . . narrowly in order to preserve the primary operation of the provision.” Maracich v. Spears, 570 U. S. 48, 60 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). In a single paragraph, the Court “reject[s]” this longstanding principle as applied to the FLSA . . . without even acknowledging that it unsettles more than half a century of our precedent.

Unfortunately for workers throughout the country, it is clear that the Court’s current conservative majority is willing to throw principles of stare decisis and judicial minimalism out the window if it serves the purpose of undermining workers’ rights. If Kennedy or any of the Court’s liberal justices is replaced this year, the country can look forward to at least 30 more years of judicial interference with congressional attempts to protect workers.

Grease Guard Service Technician To Receive Unpaid Overtime Following Arbitration

In February 2014, a former service technician for Rooftop Solutions filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta alleging that the company and one of its executives had failed to pay him overtime compensation even though he worked more than 40 hours per week. Rooftop Solutions is the “servicing division” of Grease Guard, LLC, the manufacturer of a system designed to capture oils and greases deposited on commercial and industrial rooftops around exhaust equipment. According to the complaint, the former Rooftop Solutions service technician worked throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina for approximately one year in 2013 and 2014.

After the lawsuit was filed, the case was sent to arbitration to be decided by a private arbitrator rather than a judge. After a lengthy time in arbitration, Grease Guard and the executive ultimately agreed to pay the former service technician $3,000 in unpaid wages to settle his overtime claims. The arbitrator then awarded the employee $33,485.92 in attorney’s fees and $3,398.57 in costs of arbitration, for a total award of $39,884.49. The employee has now returned to the original court moving to make the arbitrator’s award entered as the court’s final judgment.

The Fair Labor Standards Act ensures that employees can pursue even small claims for unpaid overtime and minimum wages by guaranteeing attorney’s fees and costs to a plaintiff who prevails on an overtime or minimum wage claim. That guarantee applies even when the employee is forced into binding arbitration by his employer. If this were not the case, employers could act like “petty tyrants” and break the minimum wage and overtime laws with impunity, knowing that their employees’ claims are too small to justify paying for a lawyer’s time. The FLSA and several other federal employment laws make sure that employers who undercompensate their employees can be held accountable.

The case against Grease Guard is captioned Thomas v. Grease Guard, LLC d/b/a Rooftop Solutions, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-619-MHC (N.D. Ga.). The plaintiff is represented by attorneys from DeLong Caldwell Bridgers Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Workers Sue Townsend Tree Service Over Unpaid Overtime

In June, three former employees of Townsend Tree Service sued two Townsend companies, alleging that the companies failed to pay them overtime as required by federal law. The three plaintiffs, who have worked for Townsend as foremen, operators, climbers, and groundsmen, brought their lawsuit as a collective action on behalf of all current and former Townsend tree crew members with unpaid overtime wages. Townsend Tree Service is one of the nation’s largest companies performing tree-trimming, clearance and integrated vegetation management services, operating in 30 states across the country.

The three named plaintiffs describe several practices at Townsend that they argue violated federal overtime laws. Specifically, they claim that Townsend paid them at one hourly rate for their first 40 hours of work, then lowered their hourly rate for hours worked over 40 hours per week. According to the plaintiffs, Townsend disguised the underpayments of overtime wages by labeling them as “other pay” on their paystubs.

The former tree crew members also claim that they were not relieved of their duties for meal breaks, but that Townsend automatically deducted 30 minutes from their pay each day, regardless of whether they could take a meal break or not. Finally, the plaintiffs also claim that Townsend did not compensate them for daily preparation time and travel time, although their job duties began long before they arrived at job sites and started getting paid. The result of these practices, the plaintiffs argue, is that they and other Townsend tree crew members regularly worked far in excess of 40 hours per week but received no additional compensation.

Townsend was previously sued in Georgia in 2013 by eight of its former tree crew members who similarly claimed that the company did not pay them overtime wages. That case ultimately settled and was never certified by the court as a collective action.

Unpaid meal breaks and travel time are frequent sources of minimum wage and overtime litigation. While employers typically are not required to pay employees for meal breaks of 30 minutes or longer, that rule does not apply when workers are not truly relieved of their duties. If employees may be interrupted and required to begin work at any time, or if they are required to eat lunch at their desks, that time may count towards their total compensable hours under the federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

Similarly, travel to and from work is usually not compensable and will not count towards an employer’s minimum wage and overtime obligations. But that can easily change when an employee must begin working before leaving home, travels in a company vehicle and transports heavy equipment, meets other employees at a “staging point” before going to a job site, or when the worker travels out of state to moving job sites. The U.S. Department of Labor’s regulations regarding compensation for travel time are notoriously complex and whether a violation occurred has to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The case against Townsend Tree Service is captioned Hart et al. v. The Townsend Corporation et al., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-2126-SCJ (N.D. Ga.). The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from DeLong Caldwell Bridgers Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Recent FLSA Settlements

Cook v. Statewide Wrecker Service, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-00101-ODE (N.D. Ga.)

A dispatcher who worked for Statewide Wreck Service from January 2012 through November 2014 claimed that the company had improperly denied him overtime wages. The company asserted that the plaintiff had not in fact regularly worked in excess of 40 hours per week and therefore was not underpaid.

On March 31, 2016, Judge Orinda Evans approved a settlement agreement pursuant to which the plaintiff would be paid $14,623.85 as compensation for claimed back wages and $14, 623.85 for claimed liquidated damages, with attorney’s fees and costs to be later determined. Because the parties were unable to agree on an award of attorney’s fees, the plaintiff filed a fee petition. After making modest reduction of 1.4 hours of total time billed, Judge Evans approved an attorney fee award of $31,214.00 and reimbursement of costs in the amount of $2,059.00.

The plaintiff was represented by attorneys Charles R. Bridgers, Kevin D. Fitzpatrick, Jr., Mitchell D. Benjamin, and Matthew W. Herrington of the firm DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Walker et al. v. RKJ And Sons, LLC d/b/a Subway et al., Civil Action No. 4:15-cv-183-CDL (M.D. Ga.)

This FLSA collective action was filed two former managers of a Subway restaurant franchisee claiming unpaid overtime wages. The plaintiffs alleged that their employers had a policy of making improper deductions for partial days of work missed, thereby failing to pay them on a true “salary basis” as required for any employee to be classified as an exempt executive employee. The Court earlier approved a motion for conditional collective certification and a notice of the lawsuit was sent to potential opt-in plaintiffs. A total of 31 current and former Subway managers ultimately consented to join the lawsuit.

The parties reached a settlement in the amount of $234,950, of which $68,000 represented alleged unpaid overtime wages, $68,000 represented alleged liquidated damages, $4,950 represented incentive pay to the named plaintiff and one opt-in plaintiff, and $94,000 represented attorney’s fees and costs. Back wage awards to the opt-in plaintiffs ranged from $25 to $9,354.

The plaintiffs in this case were represented by attorneys John L. Mays and Dustin L. Crawford of the firm Mays & Kerr LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Holloman v. Land Headquarters, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-148-TCB (N.D. Ga.)

The plaintiff formerly worked for Land Headquarters, Inc., a company in the business of selling manufactured homes and lots in rural areas throughout multiple states, from 1996 through January 2015. During her time at LHI, the Plaintiff stated that her responsibilities included researching and locating properties for the company to purchase, communicating with prospective customers, inspecting and maintaining the company’s properties, and attending dispossessory and other court hearings related to the company’s properties. She alleged that the defendants had not paid her overtime wages in the approximate amount of $15,000. The company claimed that the plaintiff was an independent contractor rather than an employee and was therefore not entitled to the FLSA’s overtime protections.

On June 16, 2016, the parties filed a motion for approval of settlement, which was granted the same day. Per the terms of the settlement agreement, the plaintiff will receive $7,000 designated as payment for alleged unpaid overtime, $7,000 designated as payment for alleged liquidated damages, $1,000 in consideration for the plaintiff’s general release of claims, and $10,000 in attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.

The plaintiff in this case was represented by attorney Regan Keebaugh of the law firm Radford & Keebaugh, LLC in Decatur, Georgia.


Eleventh Circuit Reverses District Court’s Dismissal of Overtime Case

In a recent opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, based in Atlanta, Georgia, reversed a district court order dismissing a plaintiff’s overtime claims against her former employer. While the appellate decision was not published, it is nevertheless an important decision because it overturned a district court order that could have had very dangerous consequences for virtually all office workers denied overtime wages.

The plaintiff, Rebecca Ramsey, was one of approximately six office workers who supported the operations of Wallace Electric Company in McDonough, Georgia, all of whom the company classified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ramsey had no specific job title, she was the lowest or second-lowest paid of Wallace’s office workers. Ramsey testified that her regular job duties included inputting payroll data; checking in supply deliveries and physically moving such supplies to pallets; inputting data from material tickets, time slips, and packing slips; inputting data from employee insurance forms; answering the company’s “service” telephone line; making and receiving service calls; “pulling” permits for scheduled jobs; contacting power companies to turn power on or off; and compiling paperwork for the company’s employee insurance plan. She did not have authority to assign specific service technicians to particular jobs and could not supervise anyone or conduct performance reviews.

In March 2015, the District (trial) Court dismissed Ramsey’s overtime claim finding that she was an exempt administrative employee. The court concluded that Ramsey “exercised judgment in creating invoices, determined whether there was a discrepancy in a time-sheet or an invoice, and that Defendants relied on her to ensure that the time billed on invoices was accurate.” Further, the district court noted that Ramsey’s “role in creating invoices was crucial to the business operations of WEC” and that her work had a substantial effect on the company’s business operations.

In its opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of Ramsey’s claims, the Eleventh Circuit did not provide a detailed analysis of Ramsey’s duties. Instead, it merely referred to discussions that were had at oral argument and concluded that the district court had made improper inferences generally, and specifically when it decided that Ramsey exercised discretion over substantive decisions.

As the Eleventh Circuit previously explained in Rock v. Ray Anthony Int’l, LLC, “to be exempt, [under the FLSA’s administrative exemption] the employee’s primary duty must involve the comparison and the evaluation of possible courses of conduct, and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered. The ultimate question is whether the employee has the ability to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision. . . . the employee’s duties must involve more than the use of skill in applying well-established techniques, procedures or specific standards described in manuals or other sources” (quotations omitted).

Because the appellate court’s opinion contains little analysis, it is not particularly useful as guidance on the application of the FLSA’s administrative exemption. However, the opinion is nevertheless important to current and future plaintiffs because it prevented the district court’s opinion from becoming binding law in the Northern District of Georgia. Had the district court’s order stood, FLSA defendants would have pointed to it as authority for the idea that virtually every office worker who has some degree of customer contact may qualify as an exempt administrative employee.

This appeal was captioned Ramsey v. Wallace Electric Company, LLC et al., Appeal No. 15-11746 (11th Cir.). The district court action is captioned Ramsey v. Wallace Electric Company, LLC et al., Civil Action NO. 1:13-cv-3808-WSD (N.D. Ga.). The plaintiff/appellant is represented by Charles Bridgers, Kevin Fitzpatrick, and Matthew Herrington of the firm DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Adult Novelty Stores Underpaid Overtime, Truncated Hours

Last week, a federal district court judge ruled that Starship Enterprises of Atlanta, Inc., which operates a chain of 22 adult novelty stores, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by illegally truncating employee time records.

The plaintiff was an assistant store manager who was paid on an hourly basis. The parties disagreed as to how many hours per week the plaintiff worked, and whether she was forced to work off the clock. However, the company’s employee time and payroll records indicated that the plaintiff had not even been paid appropriately as to the hours that were recorded.

As the court put it, “Defendant consistently failed to compensate her for much of her recorded time.” The court then gave examples of two consecutive days when the plaintiff had worked 8 hours and 23 minutes and 8 hours and 21 minutes, but was paid for only 8 hours of work on each day. “There are weeks, and even months, in which Defendant reduced Plaintiff’s hours by .25 to .5 for every day that she worked.”

While the court found that the company had underpaid the plaintiff by failing to pay her for recorded overtime hours worked, it refused to rule on the question of whether the plaintiff had worked other, unrecorded hours, leaving that question for a jury. The court also refused to rule on the question of whether Starship Enterprises had acted in good faith in its compensation of the plaintiff, concluding that the evidence was conflicting.

This week, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to reconsider the question of good faith, pointing to evidence that the court did not consider in its order, which shows that Starship earlier admitted that it did not investigate its potential FLSA liability at any time prior to the lawsuit, and because the company’s own records showed that plaintiff had not been compensated for overtime hours. The defendant has not yet responded to that motion.

While the case has been brought as a collective action on behalf of all Starship Enterprises employees affected by the illegal practices, to date no other employees have joined the case as plaintiffs. Until they file consent forms to join the lawsuit or file their own lawsuits independently, the statute of limitations will continue to eat away at any claims for unpaid overtime wages that they may have.

This case is captioned Pippin v. Starship Enterprises of Atlanta, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-0507-LMM (N.D. Ga.). The plaintiff is represented by Andrew Frisch of Morgan & Morgan in Plantation, Florida.

T.I. and Scales 925 Sued by Restaurant Servers

On Tuesday, several former employees of Atlanta restaurant Scales 925 sued the restaurant and its owner, Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., also known as the rapper T.I. The employees, all of whom worked as servers at Scales 925, allege violations of the federal minimum wage and overtime laws, as well as fraud and breach of contract stemming from numerous irregularities in the restaurant’s pay practices.

According to the plaintiffs, Scales 925’s time and billing software, called “Aloha,” would automatically record tips they had not earned and would automatically clock them out while they were still working. The plaintiffs claim to have complained about these problems to the restaurant, but to no avail.

They also allege that Scales 925 would change their payroll records when they worked more than 40 hours per week to avoid paying overtime, and even altered the restaurant’s sales figures to avoid paying out promised bonuses.

The plaintiffs also claim that they spent 30-40% of their time performing work that did not involve interaction with customers, such as preparing tables, making sweet tea or lemonade, rolling utensils, washing dishes, and cleaning the restaurant. They appear to be seeking the full $7.25 minimum wage, rather than only $2.13 per hour, for time spent on such non-tipped work.

Finally, the plaintiffs also allege that Scales 925 would require them to pay $4.00 out of their paychecks for broken glasses, regardless of whether or not glasses had been broken, and that the restaurant retained a portion of their tips, falsely claiming to give that money to the busboys.

While the merits of these plaintiff’s claims are not yet certain, wage violations of this type are nothing short of rampant in the restaurant industry. Common violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act include failure to pay tipped employees any wages at all, violating the FLSA’s “tip credit” provision (which allows employers to pay $2.13 per hour rather than $7.25), retention of tipped employees’ tips by managers or other non-tipped employees, or requiring that the employees pay kickbacks in the form of fees and fines. Tipped employees are also frequently underpaid overtime wages due to widespread ignorance of the overtime rules for tipped employees.

The case is captioned Wright et al. v. Scales 925 Atlanta, LLC et al., Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-2425-CAP (N.D. Ga.). The plaintiffs are represented by Michael O. Mondy of Michael O. Mondy, P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia.