Melonie Coleman filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on July 20 naming the Richani Restaurant Group as the defendant. RRG owns three Johnny Brusco’s New York Style Pizza restaurants in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City.
The lawsuit is a collective action complaint and seeks to recover unpaid minimum and overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
According to the complaint, Coleman worked as a server at the Johnson City location from 2008 to 2017, being paid $2.50 an hour. In an attempt to comply with the FLSA, RRG purported to utilize a “tip credit” for each hour worked by the employees.
For example, the tip credit for Coleman was $4.75, the complaint states.
However, Coleman claims that when she didn’t earn enough in tips to reach $7.25 an hour, RRG did not pay her any more than the $2.50 per hour. This took place on a regular basis and, as a result, Coleman claims she worked weeks without earning minimum wage.
The lawsuit also claims RRG had a policy and practice to require Coleman and other workers to spend more than 20 percent of their shift performing work that did not produce tips. The tasks involved rolling silverware, stocking the refrigerator, chopping vegetables, cleaning the restaurant and game room, vacuuming and filling the salt and pepper shakers.
“By requiring employees to spend more than 20 percent of their time doing non-tip producing work, Richani has forfeited its right to utilize the tip credit in satisfying its minimum wage obligations,” the lawsuit states.
David Garrison, the attorney representing Coleman, said any servers who have worked for the Richani group within the last three years are eligible to join the case. For more information on doing so, contact the Nashville law office of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison at (615) 244-2202 or email [email protected]
“The law allows us to go back two years and three years if we prove the violations were willful. We think they were and were pretty egregious,” Garrison said. “In these restaurants, if you look at who’s on schedule and who’s working, the work wouldn’t get done if the servers weren’t doing all kinds of work.”
Chuck Richani, the principal agent of RRG, said he had no comment on the lawsuit.