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Lexington Restaurant Chain Refutes Wage Theft Allegations, Claims Plaintiff was not an Employee

Restaurant employee studying wage law

Lexington Restaurant Chain Denies Wage Theft, Asserts Plaintiff Was Not An Employee

In an intriguing turn of events, the Bluegrass Hospitality Group LLC, has rejected allegations of wage and tip theft brought against it through a class-action lawsuit. The primary defence of the hospitality group is that the woman who filed the lawsuit was never employed with them.

Details of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit, initiated in April, was filed against the restaurant chain Drake’s, owned by the Bluegrass Hospitality Group based in Lexington. Lauren Boyer, the filer of the complaint, maintained that she served as a worker at the Cookeville, Tenn., Drake’s restaurant, representing herself and other servers and bartenders. She alleges that Bluegrass Hospitality Group failed to meet federal minimum wage standards, affecting all 23 of its restaurant and bar locations.

According to Boyer’s claim, the hospitality group failed to provide legally required notification relating to the use of tip credit for wage calculation purposes to its bartenders and servers. Following the lawsuit filing in May, the group responded by predominantly denying the allegations, including the assertion that Boyer was their employee. They stated that although Boyer was employed with Drake’s, she did not directly work under the Bluegrass Hospitality Group, the primary defendant in the case.

Response From The Hospitality Group

Throughout their official response to the complaint, representatives of the group consistently reiterated that Boyer was not an employee of the company. Echoing this sentiment was the defense attorney, LaToi D. Mayo, who has asked the court to rule in favor of Drake’s and dismiss the entire complaint with prejudice.

Accusation Against Drake’s

The allegations against Drake’s not only involve claims of undercompensation below federal minimum standards, but also demand workers to engage in non-tipped duties for more than 20% of their work week. These duties include non-service tasks such as mopping, sweeping, and other side jobs not involving tips. Federal law prohibits employers from taking a tip credit when employees undertake tip-supporting services and non-tipped responsibilities for over 20% of their work week.

Collective Allegations of Wage Violation

Boyer is representing herself and two collectives—the Nationwide Substantial Side Work Collective and the Nationwide 80/20 Collective—which allege wage violations at a Federal level. The lawsuit aims to compensate for unpaid wages and related damages.

Previous Wage and Tip Theft Lawsuits in Lexington

This is not the first instance where Lexington restaurants have been accused over their payment practices involving tipped employees. Earlier, Tony’s Steak and Seafood restaurant agreed to a $1.5 million settlement for a similar lawsuit where employees claimed a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit alleged that the restaurant forced tipped employees to pool their tips that were then distributed to salaried members of the restaurant’s management.

This landmark settlement provided relief to 79 servers in Kentucky, 42 servers in Ohio and 52 servers in Indiana. Altogether, the Kentucky servers were awarded $546,237.65—a significantly larger sum than the combined settlement amounts of Indiana and Ohio. The case set a precedent where the average recovery for a member participating in the server settlement amounted to approximately $5,250, with the largest settlement soaring above $35,000—according to court documents.

Lexington Restaurant Chain Refutes Wage Theft Allegations, Claims Plaintiff was not an Employee

HERE Lexington
Author: HERE Lexington

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