Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pay the Workers! Moving in the Right Direction but not there Yet!

Florida's current $7.79 hourly minimum wage rate will increase to $7.93 effective January 1, 2014.  Florida's minimum wage law requires the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to recalculate Florida's minimum wage annually based upon the increase in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Earners and Clerical Workers in the Southern Region. This minimum wage increase applies to all employees who are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

This hourly increase also impacts wages paid to tipped employees working in Florida. For tipped employees who receive tips as part of their compensation under the FLSA's tip credit rules, employers may count those tips as wages under Florida's minimum wage law. Employers may take a credit of up to $3.02 per hour for all tipped employees.  However, tipped employees must also receive a direct hourly wage. Effective January 1, 2014, this direct hourly wage must be at least $4.91 – calculated as Florida's minimum wage ($7.93) minus the permissible tip credit ($3.02).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tips, Automatic Gratuities, Service Charges - And Now The IRS?

An updated tax rule is causing restaurants to rethink the practice of adding automatic tips to the tabs of large parties.
Starting in January, the Internal Revenue Service will begin classifying those automatic gratuities as service charges—which it treats as regular wages, subject to payroll tax withholding—instead of tips, which restaurants leave up to the employees to report as income.
The change would mean more paperwork and added costs for the restaurants—and a potential financial hit for waiters and waitresses who live on their tips but don't always report them fully.
Darden Restaurants Inc., owner of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, has long included automatic 18% tips on the bill for parties of eight or more at its more than 2,100 restaurants, but is experimenting with eliminating them because of the IRS ruling, said a spokesman.
The chain in July stopped automatic tips at 100 restaurants in four cities, where it is testing a new system in which the restaurants include three suggested tip amounts, calculating for the customer the total with a 15%, 18% or 20% tip on all bills, regardless of party size. Diners can opt to tip more or less than the suggested amounts, or to not tip. Depending on how patrons react and how well the new software system works, Darden may switch to such suggested tips at all of its restaurants. A spokesman said the company will decide by year-end.
Texas Roadhouse Inc., which includes a tip of 15% for parties of eight or more at many of its more than 390 restaurants, is planning to phase out automatic gratuities by the end of the year, a spokesman said.
"I think the vast majority of restaurant owners will discontinue the practice," says Denise Wheeler, an employment attorney in Fort Myers, Fla., who represents several restaurant chains.
The change will complicate payroll accounting for restaurants that stick with automatic tips, because they will need to factor those tips into pay, meaning hourly pay rates—could vary day to day depending on how many large parties are served.
Restaurants are required to report to the IRS what its employees report receiving for tips and to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes on those amounts. Restaurants are eligible for an income-tax credit for some or all of those payments, but service charges aren't eligible, according to Marianna Dyson, a payroll tax attorney in Washington, D.C., who represents restaurant chains.
The change comes amid increasing costs and record-keeping requirements for restaurants. In January, restaurants with 50 or more full-time workers will be required to offer health coverage to employees working 30 or more hours a week, though penalties don't begin until 2015.
Restaurants adopted automatic gratuities to help ensure that their servers—whose tips supplement a salary that is often less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour—weren't stiffed on large tabs. But many servers are likely to support dropping the practice because they don't like the idea of their tips being treated as wages, which requires upfront withholding of federal taxes, and means they won't see that tip money until payday.
"I don't want my tips to be on my paycheck as a wage. I like to get my tips at the end of my shift because I know what I'm getting right away," says Tamie Cordoba, a 54-year-old server at a LongHorn Steakhouse in Jacksonville, Fla.
Ms. Cordoba makes base wages of $4.25 an hour, or $144.50 to $161.50 for her average workweek of 34 to 38 hours. She said she usually makes an additional $500 to $650 a week in tips. Since she never knows exactly how much she will get each week in tips, getting paid at the end of each shift helps her budget, Ms. Cordoba said. "In this industry, that's what we live on. If I had to wait two weeks I don't know how I'd survive."
The Cheesecake Factory Inc. suggests an 18% gratuity for parties of six or more, says a spokeswoman, but "We advise our guests that leaving a gratuity is always discretionary." She said the company is now reviewing its policy.
The IRS ruling was issued in 2012 to clarify and update earlier tax guidance on tips, which didn't spell out how automatic tips were to be treated. Restaurants persuaded the agency to delay implementation until next year.
In a statement, the IRS said it noticed an increase in the use of "auto-gratuities" and that it believed "additional clarification in this area would be in the best interest of tax administration."
The updated rule says the automatic tips are service charges because they aren't voluntary. In a question-and-answer section of the ruling, the IRS provided an example of a restaurant suggesting different tip amounts, and said that practice isn't subject to federal withholdings because the customer is still free to choose whether and how much to tip.
Still, the ruling has caused some confusion. Some restaurants insert an amount on the tip line and then remind guests on the check that they are free to adjust that amount up or down. Ms. Dyson, the payroll tax attorney, said that practice could come under scrutiny from the IRS. "How far can you go before the IRS says that looks like a service charge?" Ms. Dyson says.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pooling Tips & The 18% Service Charge - Don't Believe the Hype

After eating pastured-pork sausages and drinking a few pints of San Diego-brewed beer, it barely registered that I wasn’t able to add a tip to my bill at The Linkery. In lieu of gratuities, the San Diego restaurant, which recently closed, added an 18 percent surcharge to every bill. That’s less than the 20 percent I make a habit of leaving as a tip, so I didn’t think too much of it when I ate there last year.

The policy, which The Linkery adopted in 2006, was apparently so wrapped up in the identity of the restaurant for some customers that discussing the reasoning of not accepting tips became a distraction from its farm-to-table ethos, according to former owner Jay Porter. Now, in the wake of the restaurant’s closing, Porter is writing a series of blog posts that show just how involved his thinking about tips and wages and the restaurant business was. “I felt like I was sitting on this years and years of knowledge and experience and observations that basically nobody but us have, because we’re the only place that has done this and we’re the only place that has done this for many years,” Porter said, somewhat grandiosely, in a recent telephone interview. “So, it seemed like something interesting to write about.”

Indeed, it is. Porter’s posts offers compelling, pro-business yet community-minded reasons for doing away with tips—something that he argues raises overall wages, results in better service, helps curb the sexualized emotional labor of female employees and the discrimination of minority workers, and reduces turnover.

“Unlike all other working Americans, restaurant servers are a class of simpletons who require a drip of money every few minutes to keep them on task,” Porter writes of the general attitude customers have about service workers and the culture of tipping. “By perpetuating the idea that servers, and servers alone, won’t perform without the threat of pay withheld, we dehumanize our neighbors and peers who work taking care of us.”

So is not tipping—or, more accurately, doing away with tips—the key to a more equitable industry? It’s not quite that simple, as labor laws, restaurant culture and, alas, the market, are all somewhat in the way.

“There are things that owners can do, things that operators can do to help relieve the inequalities in the system, but in the end, McDonald’s is really busy,” Porter said. “It’s a pretty niche market when you want to make the argument to your community that you should make everything by hand and pay people livable wages. That’s also the argument that I would like to make.”

Here’s what Porter’s version of that argument looks like: An 18 percent line-item charge is added to every check, and no additional gratuities are accepted. There’s no pooling tips, no tipping out, no change made to the service charge in relation to the diner’s opinion of the service. The set model, according to Porter, accomplishes a number of things. For one, it removes the incentive for servers to play the system for tips—which, if one person is vying for too many tables, reduces the quality of service, to the detriment of the business. It also puts front of house and back of house on more equal footing. “By implementing the system, we improved the service so revenue in general went up, which meant that the pie got bigger,” he says.

At the restaurant’s peak—Porter says that overall revenue dropped after the recession, bringing employees total pay down along with it—the approach amounted to servers earning $22 per hour, cooks pulling in $12 to $14, and dishwashers making about $10. That’s not going to buy anyone a house, but it’s not the “poverty wage” (a term I’ve never heard a restaurant owner use to describe his own industry’s pay standards) that he outlines as the status quo in one blog post:

We can extrapolate from standard industry models that, of the $1000 in sales, there will be $300 available to cover the 36 hours of labor. It just so happens that this math means that everyone in the house will make $8/hour, which is of course both minimum wage and a poverty wage. But that’s just how the pie divides.

ROC United, an advocacy group for restaurant workers, agrees with Porter about where minimum wage leaves employees: “The current full minimum wage of $7.25 still produces a poverty-workforce,” says founder Saru Jayaraman. And, in states like New York, that wage is $2.13 per hour for tipper workers. “Although tipping is most likely not going anywhere anytime soon,” she says “there are several restaurants across the country that institute alternative approaches to wages—either by doing away with tipping altogether or starting their tipped employees at higher rates than the subminimum—all of which help combat the industry narrative that low wages are fundamental to running a successful restaurant.” 

There is another product of that industry narrative minimum wage—tipped or un-tipped—doesn’t account for, and that’s emotional labor: the sexualized exchanges that occur, for the most part, between male clientele and female servers. For women in the industry and those who go out, the tip-less model upends the power structure.

“A certain small number of very vocal men (and it was always men) resented that we were not letting them try to exercise additional control over our team members,” Porter writes. “The idea that the restaurant was not offering our servers up as objects of control was heresy. For these people, the primary service they wanted from the restaurant was the opportunity to pay for favors from the server.” Considering that women make up 73 percent of the tipped workforce, this is by no means a small issue in the conversation about wages and tips.

Rather than having to put up with unwanted advances from customers—or having to engage in tip-increasing emotional labor tricks, like touching diners or other ways of intimating intimacy—female servers at The Linkery had more autonomy. “In the non-tipped environment, it was really easy for us to tell our team, ‘Hey, if a guy gets out of line, get ride of him. Get out of here. We don’t want him,’ he says. “But in a tipped restaurant where that guy who’s out of line represents a significant portion of a server’s income, that was a much harder thing to communicate.”

Research, however, shows that the psychology of tipping is more complicated than a simple power play or a cash-for-flirting exchange. In a post about Porter’s writing, Popular Science’s Shaunacy Ferro points to studies that suggest very different driving forces:

A 2010 paper Azar published in Applied Economics found that rather than being a strategic move to ensure quality service, tipping is largely the result of psychological motivations—like feeling social pressure, or wanting to preserve a self-image of generosity. Another study found that tipping is a risk sharing method between a waiter and a customer, ensuring people don't lose too much money on food that could be terrible: "when the meal is unusually bad the diner can choose to withhold a tip and reduce the loss of utility that would otherwise occur," the researcher theorized.

There’s no true consensus, though, and Porter’s observations are supported by another paper Ferro cites from the International Journal of Hospitality Management: “As a result of management’s limited ability to directly control the behaviors of servers at the point of service delivery they attempt to do so indirectly by delegating control responsibilities to consumers who leave tips in accordance with the quality of service they received,” writes the author, sociologist Zachary Brewester. 
In our interview, Porter gave his less academic, more expansive take on what that delegation (or, perhaps, abdication) of control can lead to. “So tipping is a way in which it allows all these nasty things to happen that we’ve outlawed in every other industry but restaurants. So, we’re just sweeping that all under the rug because we don’t want to give up our racism or we don’t want to give up our sexual power games. But we just have this tipping thing that kind of hides it all.” 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sick Workers Cause 20 Percent of All Foodborne Illnesses - Disney and Darden Don't Really Care

Sick Workers Cause 20 Percent of All Foodborne Illnesses
If you're not feeling so hot after eating at your local restaurant, it might not be the food that originates the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-fifth of all foodborne illnesses can be linked to a sick food worker who handled the food. Why doesn't that person stay at home instead of spreading his or her germs on your meal, you ask? Likely because that worker doesn't have paid sick days.

If you're not feeling so hot after eating at your local restaurant, it might not be the food that originates the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-fifth of all foodborne illnesses can be linked to a sick food worker who handled the food. Why doesn't that person stay at home instead of spreading his or her germs on your meal, you ask? Likely because that worker doesn't have paid sick days.

NPR reports that the Food Chain Workers Alliance claims that "more than half of all food workers come to work sick because they can't afford to take a day off." Many kitchen staff get paid below minimum wage and have no health benefits or paid sick days. According to NPR, "Only 21 percent of the workers surveyed said they could take a paid sick day."

Of the 47.8 million cases of foodborne illnesses, over 9 million can be traced back to unhealthy workers. in recent years, Hepatitis A outbreaks have occurred in fast casual dining establishments in states across the country. Reports from Subway, Taco Bell, Friendly's, McDonald's, Olive Garden, and Chipotle have all made the list.

The Law Office of Lowell J. Kuvin is hoping that foodservice operators and retailers offer higher pay and sick days to incentivize workers to stay home. However, according to NPR, the National Restaurant Association is opposed. They believe the system that's in place should make it easy for workers to change their schedules. Scott DeFife, executive vice president for Policy & Government Affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said, "Restaurants typically offer flexible work schedules and hours that best meet the needs of their workplace and their employees, with the ability to switch or pick up shifts."

Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants (which owns restaurant chains like Olive Garden and Red Lobster) both have happy-looking public faces regarding the health of the people they employ. But behind the scenes, they’re doing everything they can to deny people working in Florida the right to earn basic benefits like paid sick days on the job.

This all started in mid-2012, when lobbyists for Disney and Darden colluded with county commissioners in Orange County, FL (a text message plot now known as “Textgate“) to keep a paid sick days measure off the ballot. A Florida judge ruled the county commissioners acted illegally, and ordered the measure back on the ballot.

But wouldn’t you know it? The 2012 ballots had already been printed. That bought Disney and Darden some time – which is exactly what they wanted. Over the next few months, Disney and Darden lobbyists worked with Republican legislators in Florida to draft a law to prohibit local governments from enacting paid sick days legislation. That bill has now passed the Florida Senate and is headed to the House for final approval.(Update: The Bill did not pass, but "there is always next year" a reporter heard Mickey Mouse say).

Here’s the rub: Last year, Darden Restaurants paid its CEO $8,100,000, while the average employee in one of their restaurants earned just $25,463. That’s nearly $3,900/hour for the CEO while most of their employees scrape by on just over $12/hour – without basic protections like paid sick days or health care benefits. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio is even worse at Walt Disney Co., where CEO Rober Iger pulled down more than $19,000/hour last year, while his employees averaged $31.

Something to consider the next time you go out to eat or plan a family vacation.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shuckers Waterfront Grill Deck Collapse - Dozens Of Customers Injured

As fans packed Shuckers Waterfront Grill to cheer on the Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, the waterfront patio deck gave way, crashing into Biscayne Bay, spilling dozens of terrified patrons into the water.

The accident happened at the popular North Bay Village spot, in back of the Best Western Plus on the Bay Inn & Marina, 1819 79th Street Causeway.

Dozens of police and fire-rescue units from around Miami-Dade rushed to the scene after the sudden collapse, which happened about 9:45 p.m., minutes before the game’s halftime, as the Heat was pulling away from the Spurs.

As many as two dozen people were injured. By 11:20 p.m., 15 people had been transported to various hospitals, two of them in serious condition, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Eugene Germain Jr. Another fire captain said one person might be missing and that a search was underway as rain fell.
Germain said approximately 100 people were on the deck when it fell into the water. The deck’s official capacity was not immediately known.

“There was just a crack, and then we were in the water,” said Crystal Infante, 23, who was eating and watching the game with friend Hernan Reyes, 21, when the deck, about five feet over the water, collapsed. “It was really hard to get out, and you couldn’t find anyone.”

Infante said the water was shallow enough for them to stand, but it was difficult for them to get out because wood, umbrellas, tables, chairs and other debris surrounded them.

Multiple air rescue units also were called to the scene. 79th Street was shut down.

Pictures from the scene showed rescue workers pulling green plastic deck chairs and piles of debris from the water.

Leah Masters, a hostess at Shuckers, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 News that people had just gotten to their feet to cheer a Heat basket when the deck collapsed.

As helicopters circled over the scene, rescuers carried people away on stretchers, one after another.
Chris Volz, 39, said he was sitting at the western end of the bar, about 10 feet from where the deck gave way.

“Everybody’s watching the game. It sounded like a freight train, then everyone was gone. The deck went down like a V.” He said it happened in a split second and that no one had a chance to get away.

Bartenders were diving into the water to help rescue patrons. Fire trucks pulled to the water’s edge and extended their ladders to help patrons climb to safety.

Shuckers lost power when the collapse happened, casting victims and rescuers alike into the dark.
Ernesto Reyes, a regular at the eatery on Miami Heat game days, had pulled up to the “last open parking spot” at the restaurant when he heard a loud cheer, then a roaring sound followed by screams as the deck patio collapsed in up to six feet of dark water.

“I ran inside and saw people in the water everywhere. I started pulling out chairs and tables and helping them get out; many were in shock. They were just standing in place as if they couldn’t believe what had just happened to them.”

Others were in a panic, he said. “It was a very chaotic scene.”

He helped a young mother with a large gash on her head and a baby in her arms, a young woman who lost her lower teeth and a young man trapped by heavy tables.

Reyes, 36, a paralegal who lives nearby, thanked his boss for keeping him late at work at the Law Office.

“I would have been on that deck. This is my favorite place to watch the Heat; there is always a big crowd here.” Reyes thinks the collapse occurred just before the halftime of the Heat game, the team was pulling away from the Spurs by 10 points.

Mayra Samubio, 40, of Orlando, who had gone to dine at the restaurant on the first day of her vacation in North Bay Village, was just about to enter the balcony when it collapsed. “I saw a lot of people crying and very scared. Good thing there weren’t that many children on the deck,” she said.

Miami Beach resident Peter Zalewski was also on the restaurant side, watching the game.
"There's like a rumbling and then a short time later, everybody just disappeared," he said. "All the tables just sort of disappeared and then suddenly this whole burst of dust came inside the restaurant."
He said many people initially panicked, running toward the exit because they didn't know what was going on. "Nobody could really figure out what was happening. We didn't know if it was a bomb; we didn't know what it was because of the loud noise."

Tables with umbrellas turned dangerous as people who fell were covered in the umbrellas and hitting their heads on wood. Many people who he saw had scrapes, bruises and lacerations on their heads.
"Most of the people were just calling out, 'Is anybody missing, is anybody missing?' You just kept hearing that over and over and over." He said there was chaos for about 10 minutes before the first police officers arrived, followed eventually by fire-rescue workers.

"It's a little startling because you're sitting there watching the game, you're complaining about Wade not making his baskets and Bosh not getting any rebounds and next thing you know, there's this huge noise, the landscape just disappears, people disappear and the ones still standing start running toward you. It was definitely a moment of chaos.”

Patrons banded together to help those who fell in the dark water, despite fears that the rest of the structure might not be sound. He said some patrons who got out of the water quickly, jumped back in to move tables, chairs, umbrellas and other items so those trapped could escape. "Nothing was organized, no one knew anybody from anyone," said Zalewski, who joined in to help pull people up. "But everyone was sort of thrown in and lended a hand somehow."

By 11 p.m., a triage unit had been set up in the parking lot, and victims began to be transported to area hospitals.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Judge Rules "Interns" Are Not Always "Interns" And They Must Be Paid

A New York judge's ruling that Fox Searchlight interns are entitled to be paid for their work should "serve as a warning" to employers seeking free labor under the umbrella of unpaid internships, one of the plaintiffs who worked as on the film "Black Swan" said on Wednesday.

 "This decision should serve as a warning to employers across the country," Eric Glatt said in a statement issued by Outten & Golden LLP, the law firm representing the plaintiffs. "You cannot simply slap the term 'intern' on a job description and think that relieves you of the legal and ethical obligation to pay wages for the labor that helps your organization succeed."

 On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III found that Glatt and fellow "Black Swan" intern Alexander Footman were entitled to pay for their work on the film under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor law.

Pauley also determined that Eden Antalik, who worked as an unpaid intern at Fox Searchlight's corporate offices in New York, can pursue class-action claims against the company. In his ruling, Pauley determined that the interns "performed tasks that would have required paid employees …

Menial as it was, their work was essential. The fact they were beginners is irrelevant … [T]he FLSA does not allow employees to waive their entitlement to wages." Fox Searchlight said Thursday that it's "very disappointed" in the judge's decision. "We believe they are erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed by the 2nd Circuit as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement Rachel M. Bein, one of the attorneys representing the interns, said that Pauley's order emphasizes that unpaid internships are only valid if they are "part of a real training program."

"This important ruling re-affirms that unpaid internships are not lawful unless they are part of a real training program that involves much more than just learning on the job, and they are not lawful if the interns' work provides a direct benefit to the company. It also emphasizes the importance of allowing interns to band together in class actions and challenge companies' illegal unpaid internship policies." 

The lawsuit was filed in 2011.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jason Brodeur Loves Disney and Darden - Hold On To Your Paychecks

The Florida House just passed a bill that overrides local living wage and sick time ordinances, meaning that South Florida employees could take a 40 percent cut in pay.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties both have local laws that require companies who work with the county to pay a higher living wage than the statewide minimum of $7.79.

For 2012-2013, the living wage in Miami-Dade was set at $12.06 with a health plan and $13.82 without.

Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) supports preempting local living wages, arguing that "Businesses ... need to know they have consistency and stability in the environment in order to drive economic growth," as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and employers Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants are big backers of the bill.

Meanwhile critics like Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs held that "The argument that we could balance our budgets on the back of the working poor just does not sit well with me," at a press conference on March 21.

Then there are the stories of the workers trying to get by on their wages.

One airport employee told activist group 1Miami how he can't make enough money with just one job, so he took on a second job, often leaving the airport at 2 a.m. just to come back at 5 a.m.

"It is not easy; it's not a game. I don't have any time to spend with my family so that they can know me," he said. "I have a bunch of coworkers experiencing the same problem. And that's not acceptable."

According to a recent MIT study, someone in Broward County must earn at least $11.72 an hour, working full-time, in order to just support themselves. To support a child as well, an hourly wage of $22.95 is required to meet daily expenses.

Those figures in Miami-Dade are $10.79 for those single and $21.87 with one dependent.

Miami-Dade enacted a living wage ordinance in 1999, "to allow citizens to support themselves and their families above the poverty line and with dignity." It applies to any county contract over $100,000 and any work at Miami-Dade Aviation Department facilities.

The bill, which passed Thursday 75 to 43, also overrides benefits granted by local governments such as paid sick leave and domestic partner benefits, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Below is a partial list of campaign contribution made to Jason's re-election fund:

Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         08/26/2011           500.00 CHE DISNEY DESTINATIONS, LLC                 220 CELEBRATINO PLACE SUITE 6300         CELEBRATION, FL 34747                    TRAVEL                                   
Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         10/19/2012           500.00 CHE DISNEY DESTINATIONS, LLC                 220 CELEBRATION PLACE SUITE 6300         CELEBRATION, FL 34747                    TRAVEL                                   
Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         03/31/2012           500.00 CHE DISNEY GIFT CARD SERVICES, INC           SUNTRUST SUITE 505                       LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL 32830               CARD SERVICES                            
Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         10/19/2012           500.00 CHE DISNEY PHOTO IMAGING, LLC                5300 CENTER DRIVE                        LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL 32830               ENTERTAINMENT                            
Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         10/19/2012           500.00 CHE DISNEY VACATION DEVELOPMENT, INC         1390 CELEBRATION BLVD                    CELEBRATION, FL 34747                    TRAVEL                                   
Brodeur, Jason  (REP)(STR)                         07/07/2011           500.00 CHE DISNEY VACATION DEVELOPMENT, INC.        1390 CELEBRATION BLVD.                   CELEBRATION, FL 34747                    ENTERTAINMENT                  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Texas de Brazil Lawsuit; The Beef Starts Here!

The Law Firm of Lowell J. Kuvin, Miami, and Morgan & Morgan, Orlando have filed a lawsuit against Texas de Brazil, a national restaurant chain with seven locations in Florida. The lawsuit was certified as a “collective action” by the federal court in February and includes six of the seven locations.

The lawsuit alleges Texas de Brazil did not pay servers and bartenders the correct minimum wage because the employees were required to pay for their uniforms, contrary to established federal laws (Department of Labor & Fair Labor Standards Act). Also alleged in the complaint is that Texas de Brazil did not properly pay service staff for all of their overtime hours and that the tip pool scheme was contrary to federal laws. Plaintiffs are seeking damages which include but are not limited to a refund of the entire tip credit of $3.02 for every hour they worked as well as tips illegally paid into the pool.

“Now is the time to join the lawsuit” said attorney Lowell J. Kuvin who represents the Plaintiffs along with Carlos Leach of Morgan & Morgan in Orlando. Mr. Kuvin worked in the hospitality service industry for more than 25 years before he decided to go to law school. “In my opinion, restaurants such as Texas de Brazil try to pass on the daily expenses of uniforms to service staff in order to pad the bottom line of profits” said Mr. Kuvin. “I understand why they do so because the restaurant business is very competitive and really is a game of pennies. However, when restaurants are paying their service staff the bare minimum allowed under Florida law, they need to follow the entire law and that means they need to absorb the cost of uniforms and other tools of trade servers are required to purchase.”

Another lawsuit/class action was filed recently by Mr. Leach and Mr. Kuvin. The second lawsuit alleges the tip pool was violated because servers were forced to share their tips with Carvers and the Carver Leader. "The motion to certify the class has been filed," said Mr. Kuvin, and will be set for a hearing as soon as is possible. "After speaking with our clients from the first lawsuit, we feel the class has a very good chance of getting certified in the state of Florida. If we discover the class extends to other restaurants outside of the state, we will initiate other class action lawsuits in those states as well."

For more information about the lawsuits you can visit or call Mr. Kuvin at 305.358.6800 during normal working hours (10 am to 8 pm) weekdays. You can reach Carlos Leech at his office at 407.420.1414.

For more information on restaurant laws in Florida you can visit or call the Law Office of Lowell J. Kuvin, LLC at 305.358.6800 – – emails are also welcome.

Saigon Grill in New York City Closes for Good

Workers Picket Saigon Grill

For years, Saigon Grill on Amsterdam Avenue at 90th Street was an Upper West Side fixture. Its spring rolls and Vietnamese soups were staples of quick dinners, celebratory lunches and takeout meals. Its deliveries were prompt, its waiters happy to take care of small children.

Yet there, on Friday, were some of the restaurant’s former regulars and a dozen of the workers who used to serve them, throwing a sort of grand-closing party outside Saigon Grill in the snow.

Balloons festooned a loudspeaker and a sidewalk pay phone.

“When sweatshops close, workers win!” pickets chanted, claiming victory for the pro-labor forces of the famously liberal Upper West Side.

“Celebrate!” read a neon sign hanging from a former deliveryman’s neck. “Sweatshop closed.”

It was a milestone in the history of the pan-Asian restaurant, where workers began picketing in the spring of 2007, saying, among other complaints, that the original owners, Simon and Michelle Nget, paid them less than the minimum wage — under $2 an hour in some cases.

The next year, a federal judge awarded 36 workers $4.6 million in back pay and damages, and the Ngets were charged with over 400 counts of violating labor laws. A settlement reduced the award to $3 million, of which the Ngets paid $1.5 million, according to the office of Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, a Democrat of the Upper West Side.

New owners, Bei Lin and Ling Qiao, took over the restaurant in 2010, promising to do better and pay the remaining $1.5 million.

But picketing was renewed, prompted by accusations that the owners intimidated, harassed and discriminated against workers. And of the promised $1.5 million, only $500,000 has been paid, according to Ms. Rosenthal’s office.

The restaurant had been shut more than once in recent months for health violations, including having mice, cockroaches and flies on the premises.

But it appears to have been closed for good since Feb. 26, a few weeks after a judge ordered the owners to pay $1 million still owed the workers.

“Restaurant official closed,” a note on the door read on Friday. “We’re sorry for inconvenience with you.”

It was unclear why the restaurant had been shuttered. A voice mail message left with the restaurant was not returned.

“Good riddance,” said Ms. Rosenthal, who has worked with a group representing the workers, the Justice Will Be Served campaign.

“It also sends a message to other restaurants that you can’t mistreat your workers. It just won’t fly on the Upper West Side.”

Organizers say the years of picketing outside Saigon Grill have inspired delivery people and other workers at other Asian restaurants, nail salons and pizza parlors around the city to fight unfair labor practices.

Like other local residents in attendance on Friday, Ms. Rosenthal said she ate at Saigon Grill often in the years before the Ngets’ violations came to light. She said that after the news spread, she did not know anyone who patronized the restaurant.
Saigon Grill’s labor battles became notorious enough that several passers-by said they had eventually given up their favorite spring rolls and noodles to support the workers.

“It turned me off,” Lori Countey, who lives six blocks away, said. “I felt wrong about going in there.”

Still, the restaurant remained busy on many nights. And there were signs that all the commotion, instead of winning the hearts and minds of progressive neighbors, had frayed some local nerves.

The rally on Friday was twice interrupted by angry residents.

“I’m a liberal, but I found this offensive,” said Judy Bardack, 70, who had watched the pickets come and go for years, though she had never eaten at the restaurant.

“This was not the worst abuse in the world, and they managed to hound them out of business. I mean, the balloons!”

Shakir Farsakh, 50, another neighbor, said he had decided not to eat at Saigon Grill after hearing about the protests, but broke his self-imposed rule a few times.
“We went once in a while after that, feeling a little guilty,” he said. After all, the restaurant was convenient and its food was good. “But,” he said, “we still weren’t happy about it.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tilted Kilt Now Hiring Kilt Girls

Discrimination and objectification at it best. No different than Hooters. Why do men and women allow this to continue? I'd sure to find an over 40 female or a guy who applied and was rejected.

CASTING CALLS THIS WEEKEND!!!! The TILTED KILT PUB & EATERY..........The HOTTEST place to work in Miami/Hallandale area, FL. Are you extremely fun, active, charming, have a great personality and feel comfortable in your own skin? If so, you could be a perfect fit for the role of the Tilted Kilt Girl. Our Tilted Kilt Girls make great money while working in a FUN environment and being in the spotlight. We will be casting all roles: Tilted Kilt Girl, Tilted Kilt Hostess, and Tilted Kilt Bartender. You will only be able to APPLY IN PERSON. You must adhere to the established appearance guidelines. Must maintain a costume fit as detailed in the appearance guidelines. Also must be willing to wear required costume. Be prepared to have an audition like you've never had before if chosen for call back. Casting Calls will be held tomorrow, February 8th, 9th & 10th between the times of 12pm-5pm. We will also be doing casting calls the following week of the 15th, 16th & 17th of February also in between 12pm-5pm. All auditions will be held at 1000 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd, office #35, Hallandale Beach Fl, 33009. Only serious inquires need apply please. Contact for further questions.

Location: 606 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd, Hallandale Fl, 33009
Compensation: Hourly Wages as appropriate for position Plus Tips

Please, no phone calls about this job!

Location: Hallandale Beach FL.



Thursday, January 31, 2013

Waitress fired after posting controversial pastor receipt on Reddit

JANUARY 31--The St. Louis pastor responsible for the credit card receipt heard ‘round the Internet termed her snide scribblings a “lapse in my character and judgment,” adding that the Applebee’s employee who posted the receipt online was fired yesterday after she lodged a complaint with restaurant managers.

In a TSG interview, Alois Bell said that the online firestorm created by the receipt has left her stunned. “My heart is really broken,” said the 37-year-old Bell. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

The Applebee’s receipt, which was posted earlier this week to Reddit, includes Bell’s handwritten notations referring to an 18 percent tip added to the bill (for groups larger than six). “I give God 10% why do you get 18,” wrote Bell, who scratched out the tip and added a zero in its place. She also wrote the word “Pastor” above her signature.

The January 25 meal came after an evening service at the Truth in the Word Deliverance Ministries church, said Bell, who added that five adults and five children were in the group that dined at Applebee’s (a traditional post-service destination for church members). The subsequent bill was divided up amongst the parties.

Bell, seen above, said her notation on the receipt was a “lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.” Despite scratching out the tip added to the bill, Bell claimed that she left a $6 tip in cash, adding that she subsequently discovered the 18 percent gratuity had been charged to her credit card.

Bell said she learned yesterday that a copy of the receipt was online when a friend called to say she was “all over Yahoo. You went viral!” In response, she called the Applebee’s to complain about the dissemination of her receipt, which includes her easy-to-read signature.

In a follow-up conversation with an Applebee’s manager, Bell said she was told that the waitress was immediately terminated.

According to The Consumerist, the receipt was not uploaded to Reddit by the Applebee’s worker who waited on Bell’s party. Instead, the server showed it to waitress Chelsea Welch, who photographed the receipt and later shared it online. Welch told The Consumerist she was fired yesterday. In a statement, Applebee’s spokesperson Dan Smith reported that, “Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest” for violating the patron’s “right to privacy.” The individual responsible for the leak “is no longer employed by the franchise,” Smith added.

A mother of three, Bell heads a 15-member church that rents a storefront space. Bell said she has a separate full-time job--which she declined to describe--and tithes 10 percent of her earnings to the church.

In addition to her fledgling ministry, Bell has authored three slim books--covering topics like fasting, prayer, and religious teaching--that are available for purchase through an online vanity press. One 28-page volume examines spiritual nourishment, complete with references to candy and junk food. The $10 paperback is titled "Watch the Hand that Feeds You."

According to her biography, Bell “gave her life to Christ in 1997 while she was pregnant and homeless with her youngest son.” Living at the time in a Catholic homeless shelter, Bell recalled that she was laying in her bed one afternoon when “the Lord touched her heart and she invited him in.”

Friday, January 4, 2013

Maya Tapas & Grill Accepts Argentina Pesos

Miami - A Miami Beach restaurant has begun to accept that their clients get paid in pesos rather than dollars, a strategy it hopes will attract customers in the country and save the payment of fees for card payments.

"We receive pesos", a colorful poster announcing Maya Tapas and Grill, a restaurant specialized in Argentina and has two property in Miami Beach's Lincoln Road Mall, the main pedestrian street of the island, and the Ocean Drive Desk , beachfront.

The restaurant with this initiative may save the payment of fees for card payments in Argentina and at the same, attracting customers from that country.

"Come in Miami, pay in pesos. 1 U.S. = 4.80 ARS ", added the billboards of this initiative, which takes a few days to apply officially, although previously accepted and occasionally pesos from tourists who remained without dollars or does not work for them the cards.

The initiative of Maya Tapas & Grill joins the restaurant chain Pizza Patron  with great presence in the Southwest and that since 2007 accept Mexican pesos for the purchase of its products in its stores.

Click Here to Watch the VIDEO

Florida Restaurant Law/Employment Wage and Hour Attorney