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Another prominent Lexington restaurant chain faces wage, tip lawsuit

Provided

Another prominent Kentucky restaurant chain has been sued for potential wage violations.

An employee filed a class-action lawsuit against Drake’s, which is owned by Bluegrass Hospitality Group, headquartered in Lexington. The lawsuit alleges widespread violations involving the failure to uphold federal minimum wage standards across all 23 of its restaurant and bar locations.

BHG owns and operates Drake’s locations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina and Illinois.

Amber Cook, the marketing director for BGH, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Lauren Boyer, a worker at the Cookeville, Tenn., restaurant on behalf of herself and other bartenders and servers.

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She claims in the suit BHG did not provide servers and bartenders with the legally required notice regarding the use of a tip credit toward their wages.

The complaint explains Drake’s compensated its employees below the federal minimum wage while requiring them to perform non-tipped duties for more than 20% of their workweek. Some of these duties include sweeping, mopping, rolling silverware and other side work where employees are not being tipped.

Federal law prohibits employers from taking a tip credit when an employee performs tip supporting work and non-tip generating duties for more than 20% of their work week. According to the suit, bartenders and servers are required to work for nearly an hour to set up and close the restaurants, clean and prepare tables and organize their sections.

Boyer represents herself and two collectives which allege federal minimum wage violations. The Nationwide Substantial Side Work Collective and Nationwide 80/20 Collective are other plaintiffs listed in the suit.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for unpaid wages and damages.

Other federal wage, tip lawsuits against Lexington restaurants

Drake’s is the third Lexington restaurant to face lawsuits over payment practices involving tipped employees.

A lawsuit was announced against Jeff Ruby’s in February for alleged wage and tip theft. The lawsuit said the defendants took a portion of the tips earned by servers and bartenders and shared the money with back-of-house employees “who did not earn the tips and who did not interact with customers.”

Tony’s Steak and Seafood restaurant agreed to pay $1.5 million as part of a settlement involving employees in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio locations.

The employees alleged the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by forcing them and other tipped employees to participate in a tip pool that gave portions of tips to salaried members of management, according to federal court documents and settlement information.

Three class-action lawsuits were filed against Tony’s in the three states, which were later consolidated into a single federal lawsuit. John Hartley, a former bartender at Tony’s, was the original person to file suit against Tony’s.

The Tony’s settlement resolved claims for 79 servers in Kentucky, 42 servers in Ohio and 52 servers in Indiana, according to David Garrison, lead attorney in the two cases. In total, the award for plaintiffs in Kentucky was $546,237.65 — more than Indiana and Ohio’s settlement amounts combined. The average recovery for a class member who participates in the server settlement is $5,250. The largest settlement recovery is more than $35,000, according to court documents.