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Myrtle Beach restaurant owners sued for requiring servers to give tips to the 'house'

(WPDE)

Three servers are suing Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant in federal court for violating the law involving tips.

The three worked at the Myrtle Beach location, according to the lawsuit.

The suit says the owners of the restaurant required servers to give a give a percentage of their tips each night to the “house,” i.e., to the restaurant itself.

As a result, the complaint reports that the restaurant owners are regularly paid more by their servers in misappropriated tips than they pay to servers in wages.

"It doesn't matter how much you earn in tips," lawyer Andrew Biller, of Markovits, Stock, and DeMarco, LLC, the law firm representing the servers, said. "Somebody could earn a thousand dollars in tips today. But, if the employer unlawfully took a dollar of that, then they're in trouble under the federal law."

Biller said federal law is more lenient toward workers under tip regulations than most other areas. He explained that while it allows employers to require servers to pool tips and distribute them evenly, it otherwise gives staff members the ability to enforce this area of the law.

In addition to the "house," the lawsuit also claims that the owners required servers to share tips with other non-tipped employees who are not properly included in the servers’ tip pool.

"As common as it is, it is still illegal," Biller said, explaining that his firm has seen requirements to share tips with chefs in previous cases.

The servers also claim that they were required to work off the clock, work more than 40 hours per week, not paid the correct overtime rate and were required to spend 20 percent of their time at work completing non-tipped sidework.

The servers are asking for unpaid wages, overtime pay and damages.

Biller said his team is attempting to certify the case as a collective action, which he said would allow employees from other Captain George's locations to join the suit if they were treated the same way.

In an answer to the lawsuit filed in federal court, the company denies all allegations raised by the servers.

ABC 15 reached out to the restaurant's attorneys for further comment.

Alan D. Albert with LeClairRyan law firm in Norfolk, Virginia, is representing the restaurant. Ina brief statement Wednesday, he said “We are very confident that the restaurant have not violated any state or federal wage laws. Any mistake was honest."

Albert also said the claims in the lawsuit “factually untrue.”

He said the restaurant is a "really good employer" who even offers a 401k program with matching, which he described as "something you don't often see in the restaurant business."

ABC15 has also reached out to the Captain George's corporate office in Virginia Beach for comment, but was only able to leave a message Tuesday.

You can review the original Class and Collective Action Complaint in its entirety by clicking here or in the embed below.


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