August 12, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Charlotte, NC – A former waitress at the Hickory Tavern restaurant chain has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court, alleging that she and scores of other workers were paid only the tipped-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour while doing work for which they didn’t get tips.
Vanessa Chavez, who worked at a Hickory Tavern in Winston-Salem for four months, said they were required to spend much of their shifts cleaning tables and stocking shelves without being paid the $7.25 minimum for that work. Chavez, 27, told the Charlotte Observer that she spent as much as 40% of her shifts doing those jobs, but management told her she “shouldn’t complain because it is a lot worse at other places.” The chain has 23 restaurants in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Alabama. Similar suits have been filed against other chains, including Ruby Tuesdays, Houlihan’s, and Applebee’s. In 2012, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Applebee’s, which had argued that it didn’t have to pay the full minimum because cleaning up and stocking were a normal part of working as a bartender or server. The lower court had held that under Labor Department rules, tipped workers are entitled to the full minimum wage if they spent more than 20% of their work time on non-tipped duties. Read more