Restaurant worker files class action over minimum wage dispute

By The Penn Record | Aug 19, 2014

A former employee at a Philadelphia restaurant says she has been shortchanged on four

years worth of paychecks because her ex-managers did not properly follow state or federal minimum wage laws, according to a class action suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff, Ashley Mondschein, has brought the action against Bellevue Philly, a limited liability corporation that manages Tavern on Broad, a sports bar located in Center City Philadelphia, on behalf of members of the tipped employee and promotional class that may have been damaged by the restaurant's practices.

Mondschein alleges in the complaint that management at Tavern on Broad would only pay the state minimum wage adjusted for employees that earn tips, a flat $2.83 per hour, when state and federal regulations require the employer to make up the difference if the employee did not make enough tips to earn the state minimum wage of $7.25.

According to the suit, Mondschein worked for Tavern on Broad from September 2010 to March 2014 as a promotional employee, helping to sell bar products such as test tube shots or beer from beer tubs. Her shifts lasted five to six hours, two or three days a week, the suit says.

For the first two years, Mondschein claims she earned a wage solely through customer tips and says that Bellevue owes her back-payment of full minimum wage between 2010 and 2012. In 2012, Tavern on Broad adjusted the compensation and paid promotional employees $2.83 per hour, regardless of the amount earned in tips.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, in certain circumstances it is permissible for an employer to take a tip credit and pay its employees less than minimum wage provided that the employee’s tips plus the tip credit equals at least the applicable minimum wage. Under the federal law, the maximum credit an employer can take is $5.12, while in Pennsylvania the maximum is $4.42 per hour.

If an employee's tips don't reach the $7.25 minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Mondschein claims that Tavern on Broad did not follow this provision and continued to take the maximum credit regardless of the strength of her tips.

According to pay stubs provided by her attorneys, during one shift Mondschein made only five dollars in tips. Tavern on Broad paid her the absolute minimum of $2.83 for the three-and-a-half hours worked, meaning Mondschein's hourly wage for that shift was a total of $4.27.

Mondschein has opened up the litigation to similar promotional employees who may have been affected by Tavern on Broad's alleged failure to notify its staff of the intention to take the tax credit and estimates there are approximately 40 other people qualified to join the action. She says that the restaurant has been unjustly enriched by not paying employees the full wages due to them.

The plaintiff is represented by Arkady Rayz of Kalikhman & Rayz, LLC and Gerald Wells of Connolly Wells & Gray, LLP.

The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-04788-CDJ.

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