A recent case from the Southern District of Alabama demonstrates the substantial costs that can be associated with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. See Miller v. Spence, No. 14-0468-CG-B, 2016 WL 2350142 (S.D. Ala. May 3, 2016).
The Defendants in Miller were the owners of seafood restaurants along the Alabama Gulf Coast, including The Shrimp Basket, Mikee’s Seafood, and The Steamer. The plaintiffs were employed as servers at the restaurants and sued for unpaid compensation in the form of wages and overtime. Among other things, the servers claimed that they were not paid the federally-mandated minimum wage because a portion of their tips were contributed to a tip pool that included non-tipped employees.
Ultimately, the defendants agreed to pay $260,326.54 as part of a settlement for back wages, liquidated damages and class representative incentive payments. Additionally, the restaurant owners agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys $130,000.00 in legal fees.
In Miller, Senior United States District Court Judge Callie Granade was asked to approve the settlement. Judge Granade approved the payment of $260,326.54 to the servers, but requested additional information before approving the payment of attorneys’ fees.
Nevertheless, Miller provides an important warning to employers about the dangers of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. Notably, there are attorneys who represent employees and specialize in NLRB violations. The same attorneys represented the plaintiffs in Miller and the plaintiffs in the Landry’s “Throwed Rolls” case which I discussed previously: “Throwed Rolls” and Attorneys’ Fees: The High Costs of FLSA Violations