Minimum Wage Violation – Hooters “Girls” Sue for Uniform Kickbacks and Tip Violations

Over a dozen East Coast Hooters Girls have filed a wage and hour lawsuit suing their employer for violating minimum wage laws.

The recognizable orange running shorts and tank top uniforms are part of a wage and hour lawsuit filed by 13 Hooters waitresses (“Hooters Girls,” per company literature). At the heart of these waitresses’ lawsuit against the Atlanta, GA.-based parent corporation are violations of tipping law, specifically the garnishing of tips to pay for the company’s exclusively sold and required attire. Additionally, the wage and hour lawsuit alleges tip pooling violations and unpaid overtime.

The key concept behind most Tennessee and national tipped employee wage and hour lawsuits is whether the tipped employee earned, at minimum, the required minimum wage. Because waitresses and other tipped employees are paid less out-of-pocket by their employer (still $2.15 hourly despite this year’s minimum wage rise to $7.25) and because tips are paid in readily transferred cash, there are ample opportunities for abuses.

Your Tennessee employer must ensure that you take home an hourly minimum wage after tips. If there are deductions, such as uniform expenses or tip pooling, your TN employer must ensure that your take-home pay meets the federal requirement of $7.25. As defined by Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the U.S. Department of Labor:

[I]f the wearing of a uniform is required…, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be a business expense of the employer. If the employer requires the employee to bear the cost, it may not reduce the employee’s wage below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

(For more information, see Department of Labor’s Quick Fact Sheet on
minimum wage and uniforms (PDF).)

Waitresses at Hooters, according to the lawsuit filed last month, were required to purchase their full attire from the company, including shirts, shorts, aprons, socks, shoes, pins, and $4 pairs of shoddy nylons that frequently had to be replaced. Also illegally deducted from the waitress’s checks were the prices of customer walk-outs, according to the lawsuit.

The wage and hour lawsuit also alleges that these waitresses were not paid for overtime hours worked to open and close the restaurants or for training and meeting hours. Additional allegations of illegal tip pooling practices, specifically, of requiring the tipped waitresses to share tips with untipped employees, are also made by the lawsuit.

This is the second wage and hour lawsuit this year brought against Hooters by waitresses for underpayment and FLSA violations.

A statement issued by Hooters spokesman Michael McNeil said the company is investigating these most recent wage abuse allegations and that Hooters is confident the company will be vindicated.

If your Tennessee employer may have paid you less than minimum wage by docking your pay or you believe you may have tips unlawfully taken from you through tip pooling or other means, I encourage you to complete our online TN wage lawsuit inquiry form or to call our Nashville, TN employment law offices directly at 615-353-0930. Our minimum wage attorneys are familiar with the intricacies of Tennessee employment law.

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