Wage and Hour Lawsuit Filed Against Happy Lamb Hot Pot

 In Employment Law, Wage Law

At the end of October, 2018, a lawyer in Massachusetts filed a wage lawsuit complaint on behalf of nine workers at Happy Lamb Hot Pot in Cambridge, Massachusetts alleging that the restaurant committed numerous labor violations, including failure to pay overtime wages, improperly distributing workers’ tips, and refusing to let workers use accrued sick time.

The complaint also alleges that Happy Lamb Hot Pot failed to pay some workers any base pay and paid other tipped workers a sub-minimum wage despite failing to meet the requirements to pay employees less than minimum wage. Additionally, the claim alleges that management at Happy Lamb Hot Pot illegally retaliated against workers who spoke up against these violations by firing one worker.

The worker-plaintiffs include current and past employees of Happy Lamb Hot Pot. Today, the company is requesting $806,000 in back wages as well as damages. This case provides a strong example of the complex laws that are involved when an employer is accused of violating sick leave requirements.

Federal and State Laws Concerning Tip Theft

The following are just a few examples where we have seen employers engaging in illegal tip theft:

  • Restaurants illegally charging waiters and waitresses $1 per shift for a “glass-breakage fee” to cover the costs of replacing broken cups and plates.
  • Restaurants illegally requiring bartenders to pay for any cash register shortages at the end of each shift.
  • Numerous examples of restaurants and other service related businesses illegally charging employees for uniforms.
  • Restaurants illegally charging waiters and waitresses for cash shortages at the end of each shift.
  • Restaurants illegally charging waiters and waitresses credit card fees to process their tips.
  • Restaurants and other service related businesses Illegally charging employees a “house-fee” – this amount is usually based upon the amount of tips earned during the shift or a percentage of the employee’s sales.
  • Restaurants requiring employees to eat meals at the restaurant, where the restaurant makes a profit from the purchase of the mean.
  • Numerous examplesof restaurants requiring waiters and waitresses to contribute to a tip pool of which a portion was distributed to back-of-the-house employees or management-level employees.
  • Numerous other examplesof employers scheming up plans to retain employees’ tips or charge employees for items that are more properly considered a cost of doing business.

Federal and State Laws Concerning Sick Leave

There are not any federal law requirements that workers receive paid sick leave. Most employers, however, do give workers some paid time off each year that can be used as sick leave.

For companies that are subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is important to remember that this Act provides for a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave for certain medical situations. Workers are eligible to take a Family and Medical Leave Act if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hour over the previous year, and worked at a location where at least 50 workers are employed. There is little guidance suggesting which injuries constitute qualified medical situations under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Less serious medical conditions rarely qualify under the Act, though. Instead, medical conditions that require hospitalization or bed rest under medical care for a period of more than three days are often considered serious.

State laws will also likely play a role in this case. Since July 15, 2015, employers in Massachusetts with more than 10 employees are required to provide one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. This amount, however, cannot go over 40 hours per year. Workers are then able to use this accrued time if they are ill, injured, or need to attend a medical appointment for either themselves, a spouse, or a loved one. Employers with 10 or fewer workers are not required to provide paid sick leave but must provide unpaid sick leave in a comparable manner.

Contact an Experienced Wage and Hour Attorney

Each year, numerous workers are deprived of adequate compensation due to employers that commit wage and hour violations including violations related to sick leave requirements. Contact Herrmann Law today to schedule a consultation by calling our office: 817-479-9229 or filling out our online questionnaire, and someone from our office will contact you. You can also find a list of answers to common questions regarding federal tipping laws.

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