Last week, President Obama introduced a sweeping set of reforms aimed at making millions of salaried American workers eligible for overtime pay. The new rules are particularly relevant in the restaurant industry, where salaried employees like managers and sous chefs frequently work long hours for low wages.
At one Houston restaurant, though, the issue has reached a boiling point.
The Southeast Texas Record reports that a lawsuit filed in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas alleges popular Cajun-Vietnamese eatery Crawfish & Noodles failed to pay servers for overtime hours worked in the restaurant. According to the suit, the restaurant’s policies constitute a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The plaintiff, a former server named Brian Ho, alleges that he was not paid time and a half for working more than 40 hours per week, even though he was required to by the restaurant. Ho also alleges that he was forced to split tips with other employees.
In the state of Texas, "tip pooling" is a perfectly legal practice, though some employees are ineligible to participate in the pool. In this case, Ho says that he was required to split tips with kitchen staff, managers, and cleaning staff, who are not legally eligible to participate in the tip pool.
In the suit, Ho is seeking payment for overtime hours that he worked, unpaid wages, legal fees, and "any other relief the court deems just." Eater has reached out to Crawfish & Noodles for comment, and will update this post when more details become available.
UPDATE: Crawfish & Noodles vehemently denies the allegations in the suit, and has provided Eater with this statement in response:
We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us and intend to vigorously fight the false allegations made by our former employee. We know that in order to be successful, happy employees and happy customers are key. For our customers we provide delicious food at good prices in a clean and welcoming setting. For our employees we provide a family atmosphere where everyone is paid in compliance with the law. It is disappointing that one former employee decided to make these false allegations, but we have no doubt that the truth will prevail and we will successfully defend the meritless suit.