- Farmers Restaurant Group, which operates restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, has agreed to pay $1.49 million to settle claims that it violated applicable pay laws (Stephens, et al v. Farmers Restaurant Group, Dan Simons and Michael Vucurevich, No. 1:17-cv-01087 (D.D.C., Aug. 21, 2018)). According to various media reports, 962 servers will share the settlement.
- The workers alleged that the employer failed to pay them minimum wage when they required they buy uniforms and tools of the trade; required them to contribute to an allegedly invalid tip pool; did not pay minimum wage for time spent performing side work and did not pay the servers in D.C. and Maryland minimum wage and overtime pay for pre-shift meetings. The plaintiffs who worked in D.C. also said the restaurants denied them paid sick leave in violation of local law.
- The group operates Founding Farmers and Farmers and Distillers, among other restaurants. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been asked to sign off on the agreement.
Pre- and post-shift work, in particular, has been a focus of wage and hour litigation in recent years. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can require that employees be paid for pre-shift and post-shift job duties, and courts have been wrestling with this mandate, working to determine what, exactly, is compensable.
The U.S. Supreme Court even weighed in, addressing the issue in 2014 in a case involving post-shift security screenings for Amazon warehouse workers. The Court adopted a relatively narrow reading of the "integral and indispensable" test for preliminary and postliminary duties. Today, the issue often arises when employees must wait to clock in, or must undergo a bag check before leaving the worksite.
But when it comes to restaurant work, especially mandatory pre-shift meetings, employment law attorneys generally recommend that employees be compensated for that time. What's more, if the work is non-tipped, employers may need to carefully evaluate how much time is spent on that activity and whether applicable circuit precedent requires that employees receive minimum wage for that time.