Mar 18, 2024

Wage Theft on Order at Metro Diner: Just What Is the JAX Eatery Accused of?

Wage Theft on Order at Metro Diner: Just What Is the JAX Eatery Accused of? - waitress at a restuarant

Recently, the Jacksonville office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Metro Diner’s Jacksonville Beach franchise violated minimum wage and overtime laws. The company was ordered to pay back more than $150,000 in wages to 59 employees. 

However, Metro Diner is not the only restaurant engaged in wage theft. Employers, especially in the hospitality industry, steal billions from workers nationwide. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) determined that 2.4 million employees in the most populous states of the U.S., including Florida, lose a whopping $8 billion in wages annually. 

As a hardworking restaurant worker, you could be missing out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you are working off the clock, missing overtime pay, or are experiencing wage theft in another way, our employment lawyers want to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out if your employer owes you money.

How Did Metro Diner Commit Wage Theft?

Jacksonville Beach Metro Diner committed several labor law violations, including: 

Illegal Pay Deductions

Investigators found that Metro Diner illegally deducted money from employees’ pay for uniforms. The deduction caused the affected workers’ wages to drop below the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Unlawful deduction of wages is one form of wage theft. By deducting money from employees’ wages, Metro Diner violated the federal FLSA, protecting workers from unauthorized deductions and regulating the minimum wage.

Misappropriating Tips

At Jacksonville’s Metro Diner, tips were pooled and then shared between servers and non-tipped workers, which meant some employees did not earn the federal minimum wage. This practice constitutes wage theft as it violates the minimum wage provision in the FLSA. 

If you are a busser, server, or bartender, tips are an essential portion of your hard-earned income, and you probably rely on them to pay your bills. Generally, a manager or supervisor is not entitled to take your tips away. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act controls the regulations for tipped employees, which include, among others:

  • Servers
  • Bartenders
  • Restaurant workers
  • Valets

Miscalculating Overtime Pay

Federal investigators also determined that Jacksonville Beach Metro Diner miscalculated overtime pay. Unless exempt, employees who work more than 40 hours a week must be paid overtime at time-and-a-half of their regular pay. Working overtime without receiving adequate compensation is considered wage theft. Unpaid overtime or working off the clock can be common in the hospitality industry.

What Are Other Common Forms of Wage Theft?

The restaurant trade in Florida can be extremely profitable. However, these profits do not necessarily trickle down to servers, kitchen personnel, and bartenders. Wage theft is rife in the Florida restaurant industry, and your loss is an employer’s gain. Wage theft can take many forms, including: 

Unpaid Breaks

Florida restaurants do not have to offer breaks to employees. However, if they do, they have to pay you for any breaks of 20 minutes or less. Employers do not have to pay you for longer breaks of 30 minutes or more. It is one thing to choose to work through a break if you get paid for the time. However, if you find yourself working during unpaid breaks, you might be missing out on money you are owed, including overtime pay.  

Working “Off the Clock”

You should be paid for all the time you spend engaged in work activities, whether you are preparing for the next shift or cleaning up at the end of the day. Working off the clock is illegal and occurs when work activities are not counted towards a worker’s paid hours. 

Misclassifying Workers

In some cases, employers illegally misclassify employees as exempt from receiving overtime pay. Generally, only executives, administrators, and outside salespersons are exempt from overtime. A misclassified worker could potentially lose thousands or tens of thousands of dollars over the years due to mistakenly being classified as exempt. 

How We Can Help

Hospitality workers are some of the hardest workers in America and deserve protection in line with the relevant federal and state laws. Moreover, according to the National Employment Law Project, women, immigrant workers, and people of color are more likely to experience wage theft.

Morgan & Morgan stands up for hardworking hospitality professionals. We want to help eradicate exploitation and injustice, and help Florida’s workers get what they are owed. If you experienced wage theft at Metro Diner or elsewhere, get in touch today. Our employment lawyers want to help you fight for what you deserve. 

What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

According to a statement issued by Jacksonville’s Wage and Hour Division, the Metro Diner on Jacksonville Beach violated minimum wage and overtime provisions detailed in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA establishes various provisions for workers in the private sector and government, including but not limited to:

  • Minimum wage
  • Overtime pay
  • Hours worked
  • Recordkeeping
  • Youth employment standards 

Many states also have additional labor laws regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and other employment issues. In Florida, for example, the current minimum wage is $10 an hour. If the federal minimum wage diverges from the state minimum wage law, employees are generally entitled to the higher standard minimum wage.  

How Common Is Wage Theft?

According to the EPI, minimum wage violations cost American workers an estimated $15 billion each year. The institute calculated that working only 30 minutes off the clock each day can result in a loss of $1,400 per year for a worker earning the minimum wage. Unfortunately, wage theft is a widespread practice in this country. Many workers may not realize that their employer is stealing their wages. Likewise, some employers may not be aware of the current labor laws and inadvertently short-change employees. 

Wage Theft on Order at Metro Diner - FAQ

Which Compensation Could I Receive in a Wage Theft Lawsuit?

Each wage theft case is unique, and there are no average settlement amounts. What you could receive depends on how much your employer owes you in back pay and other damages, such as:  

  • Unpaid wages and overtime
  • Missing tips and commission
  • Unpaid breaks
  • Interest on missing compensation
  • Legal expenses and attorney’s fees 

Employers that acted particularly egregiously in stealing wages may have to pay additional penalties to the employee affected.

I Got Fired After Filing a Wage Theft Claim; What Should I Do?

If an employer retaliated against you after filing a wage theft claim, you could have a legal case for wrongful termination and qualify for additional compensation. However, although retaliation by employers is unlawful, it can be hard to prove in at-will states such as Florida. Therefore, if you have been wrongfully terminated, contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible to assess your options and the next best steps for getting justice. 

How Much Does a Morgan & Morgan Employment Lawyer Cost?

Having to fight for your hard-earned money can be overwhelming and exhausting. At Morgan & Morgan, we understand that hospitality workers might shy away from hiring an attorney due to the potential cost involved. We can assure you we never charge you any upfront fees, hidden expenses, or other costs. You pay nothing unless and until we recover compensation. Moreover, the court could order your employer to pay all legal expenses and attorney’s fees. 

Morgan & Morgan Fights Hard for Hospitality Workers

Restaurant workers in Florida should not have to work for free or less than what they deserve while their greedy employers rake in the profits. If you are a victim of wage theft like the Jacksonville Beach Metro Diner employees, you could be entitled to back pay, missing tips, and other damages. Morgan & Morgan fights for the people and not the powerful. We can hold unscrupulous employers accountable. Contact us now to find out how we could help in a free consultation.

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