Suzanne Parratt had been waiting tables at Pig N Whistle on W. 48th Street for about three and half months when a trio of louses she was serving on the afternoon of November 19 walked out on their $96 bill. Parratt, who was paid a base salary of $5 and split tips with the other servers, was told she’d have to cover the bill out of her own pocket.
That night Parrratt went home and wrote an open letter to those three dicks on Reddit: “I’d like to inform you that your adorable prank cost me my job this evening. I hope you have a wonderful time gloating about stiffing the server and discussing how hilarious it was that you talked to me like I was a piece of shit while I served you your Blue Moon and shots of Fireball Whiskey. Have a great holiday season, because mine is ruined.”
On Tuesday, Parratt had a happy update: she has hired a lawyer, Joshua Parkhurst of Giles Law Firm, and filed a class-action lawsuit against the owners of four Pig N Whistle locations, as well as PJ Moran’s, Langan’s and Eamonn’s. (No one at Pig N Whistle was available for comment.)
According to a complaint filed last week, Pig N Whistle’s acting manager Rosie Ortiz told Parratt if she didn’t cover the tab out of her own tips “it would be her last night in the building.” When Parratt tried to confirm, manager Eugene Wilson she was told if she didn’t pay for it, the two other servers with whom she shared her shift would be held responsible.
Parratt refused to pay, and was fired that night. If that wasn’t bad enough, according to the suit, Pig N Whistle withheld her final paycheck after she was fired.
The lawsuit aims to recoup that paycheck, as well as wages for Parratt’s training days–the lawsuit says she shadowed another employees for three days in August without pay–tip losses and damages of at least $10,000.
That’s not all, though. Because, as the suit alleges, Pig N Whistle was in the practice of docking tips from employees when a customer dined-and-dashed, they owe their former employees back wages too. Pig N Whistle, like many other restaurants, took advantage of a “tip credit,” meaning they paid employees less than the minimum wage with the understanding that the employee would make at least minimum wage through his or her tips.
But, as Parkhust explains, “In order for an employer to take the tip credit they have to allow the employee to keep all their tips. By requiring the employees to pay back the walk-offs or the returned orders out of their tips, they are forfeiting the tip credit and therefore they have to pay the entire minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.”
“New York’s law is pretty strict–you can’t deduct anything except taxes and certain benefits for the employee,” Parkhurst says. “You can’t do something like this, which is basically–punishing someone for a mistake that may or may not be theirs.”
Parratt is not the only person who may benefit. It is a class action lawsuit, so anyone who has worked at any of the seven Magee-Mahon restaurants in the last six years (Parkhurst estimates there may be more than 200 of them out there) could also be eligible for unpaid wages and gratuities and damages.
No one else has joined yet, but Parkhurst tells the Voice several parties have expressed interest. “I’m not going to name any names,” Parkhurst says. He adds, “There is a lot of concern by people who work there that they will suffer retaliation. That’s unlawful, but it’s nevertheless common. We understand the fears, but we would like to see more people come forward.”
If you’re a former employee looking to get in on the action, you can email Parratt’s lawyer, Joshua Parkhurst, at JParkhurst@gileslawfirmllc.com.
Read the full complaint on the next page. [
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 5, 2014