Ex-employees sue Broadway bar for allegedly making them share tips

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NASHVILLE, Tn. (WKRN) – Former employees at a popular Broadway bar are suing for lost wages.

The employees claim the bar owners at Downtown Sporting Club pay less than minimum wage and don’t let them keep their tips.

“The case is about servers and bartenders working hard to earn their tips and then having those tips taken at the end of the night and given to employees who didn’t earn them,” said the lead counsel on the case Joshua Frank with Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC.

The case started with one server and one bartender filing a collective action lawsuit against the bar, claiming violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Restaurants and bars, and other establishments that have tipped employees are allowed under certain circumstances are allowed to pay those employees less than $7.25 an hour, which is the minimum wage. They can pay them 2.13 an hour, but the tips those employees earn have to make up the difference between 2.13 and 7.25 an hour,” Frank explained.

“Those tips that they earn have to be retained by the employee, employees have to be able to keep the tips they earn. Under certain circumstances, those can be shared, but they have to be shared with other employees who also earn tips,” he said.

Other former employees have since joined the suit.

In this case, these employees say they had to tip out bar-backs who allegedly are paid more than minimum wage and don’t interact with customers.

“In the restaurant industry more broadly, you find cases where tips are being shared with dishwashers or cooks or people who have no customer interaction whatsoever who don’t earn tips,” Frank told News 2.

Some paying customers at the Downtown Sporting Club say all staff should be paid minimum, but they don’t mind their tips shared.

“I think that’s fair, just because it’s a team production, front to back, the food’s coming from the back, a lot of times customers tip based off the food and the taste and the servers aren’t necessarily preparing that either,” said Nashville resident John Harrison.

The bar is run by Strategic Hospitality who also owns other popular Nashville establishments such as Pinewood and Henrietta Red.

The owners told News 2 in a statement they can’t comment on pending litigation, but have not been served as of Sunday evening.

“Strategic Hospitality, however, prides itself on how it treats its employees and its customers. We are from Nashville and always seek to make our establishments places where Nashvillians want to work and enjoy themselves,” the statement said.

The law firm has filed these cases in states across the country.

Frank adds this is a common “unlawful practice” throughout the hospitality industry.

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