Lawsuits over worker pay could boost your bill

New this morning, restaurants in Tampa Bay may now get a lot more careful with how they pay their workers — which could mean you pay more for dinner.

Our news partners at the Tampa Bay Times are reporting the Hurricane, the iconic seafood restaurant in St. Pete Beach, has agreed to settle claims it cheated its employees out of fair pay by not following the law.

This isn’t the only case. In the past two years, more than a quarter of a million dollars have been paid out by beachside restaurants.

This newest settlement may put restaurant owners on alert to follow the law, and potentially pass their increased costs on to you.

The Times reports the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant will shell out $67,000, divided up in different amounts among 45 employees — thirteen of them will get more than $3,000 each.

It’s a settlement sparked by a former waiter who sued after he said he and his colleagues weren’t getting their fair share under Florida law.

That lawsuit claimed the Hurricane broke the law by:

  • Taking money from the pool of waiters’ tips to pay for “walk-outs,” customers who didn’t pay their bills.
  • Not paying a full overtime wage.
  • Using that pool of waiters’ tip money to pay non-tipped employees like dishwashers. Workers can do that voluntarily, but cannot be forced to “tip-out” to full-wage workers.

The owners of the Hurricane would not comment to the Times, and by settling, they are not admitting any guilt.

These are all things often done in the restaurant industry, even though they’re illegal. Changing them at a restaurant could cost that restaurant owner money.

You can ask the staff at your favorite restaurant whether the owners and managers are following Florida’s laws for tipped employees (you can read an excellent summary at this link).

You can also watch the menu to see whether the restaurant’s owners are passing any increased costs from following the law on to you, the customer.


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