Lawsuit Alleges Illinois Restaurant Shaved Hours From Servers’ Timecards


As Chicago employee rights attorneys, we were interested to see what may have been the first unpaid overtime filing of 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Harris v. Cheddar’s Casual Café, No. 20-cv-0045 (N.D. Ill.) was filed Jan. 5 by three former servers and bartenders who seek to certify a class of current and former employees denied overtime and tips by the Cheddar’s Casual Café chain of restaurants. Plaintiffs Donny Harris, Keith McKinstery and Shaniqua Bell allege that managers at a Cheddar’s in Boilingbrook, Ill shaved time off their timecards and required them to work off the clock in order to avoid paying overtime. They also allege that their tips were diverted to a tip pool that illegally included non-tipped workers.

The complaint in the case says plaintiffs, and other similarly situated workers, were required to clock in and out for their shifts using the chain’s computerized system. They allege that the restaurant, and manager Solomon Tristan, illegally manipulated the timesheets created by that system to remove hours. They also allege that they were encouraged to work before clocking in and after clocking out, further denying them overtime. Furthermore, the plaintiffs say, they were compelled to participate in a tip pool that included the restaurant’s “quality assurance” workers, who they say are not tipped employees. Under federal law, employers may not pay tipped employees less than minimum wage unless they are allowed to keep all their tips, or contribute only to a legal tip pool. Thus, the complaint said, Cheddar’s policies violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.

At Nationwide Consumer Rights, our Wheaton, Ill. overtime attorneys see cases like this frequently. Hourly employees such as waiters and bartenders are regular targets for employers who prefer not to pay all of the wages they owe, and even sometimes to skim their earned tips to pay other employees. This behavior relies on employees to stay quiet, either because they don’t know they have rights or because they’re afraid of punishment for speaking up. However, federal and state law is very clear employees must be compensated for all of their time at work, and paid time and a half for any time over 40 hours in a week. Failure to follow these basic requirements exposes companies to lawsuits seeking all of the back pay owed, attorney fees and any other costs incurred. In cases of egregious law-breaking, courts may also require employers to pay punitive damages — money intended to penalize willful law-breaking.

Based in Chicago and Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., near Aurora, Joliet, Elgin, Naperville and Evanston Lubin Austermuehle fights for consumers’ rights against businesses and organizations involved in fraud. That includes businesses defrauding their own employees with policies that essentially steal their labor by failing to pay what’s legally owed. Our Illinois, Wisonsin, Indiana, and Michigan unpaid overtime lawyers handle class actions and proposed class actions like this case as well as wage and hour claims brought by individuals. We have more than two decades of experience protecting consumers’ and workers’ rights, in Illinois, the Midwest and throughout the United States. If you’d like to learn more, we offer free consultations where you can tell us about your case and learn more about your rights. To set one up, please contact us online or call 630-333-0333 toll-free.

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