BOSTON - A sister and brother from Quincy are suing Ruth’s Chris Steak House Inc., claiming the national restaurant chain underpaid them for hours they worked when they weren’t serving customers and generating tips.
A sister and brother from Quincy are suing Ruth’s Chris Steak House Inc., claiming the national restaurant chain underpaid them for hours they worked when they weren’t serving customers and generating tips.
Nikko Rose and Brandon Rose are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit they filed against the Heathrow, Fla.-based chain on Nov. 19 in Boston federal court. Nikko Rose works at the Ruth’s Chris on School Street in Boston, and Brandon Rose worked there from October 2005 until this month.
In the lawsuit and affidavits filed in court, the Roses allege that they were asked to come to work at least an hour before the Boston restaurant opened to do set-up work, such as setting tables, making coffee and lighting candles. They were also required to stay for at least a half an hour after the restaurant closed to do chores such as resetting tables, folding napkins and polishing glassware.
During those times, the Roses claim they were paid the state’s service minimum wage of $2.63 an hour - well below the state’s minimum wage of $7.50 an hour.
Federal law allows restaurant servers such as waitresses and bartenders to be paid below traditional minimum wages with the understanding that the bulk of their pay comes from customers’ tips.
But a restaurant’s service workers may not spend more than 20 percent of their shifts doing activities that do not produce tips in order for the restaurant to take advantage of that exemption, said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston lawyer who represents the Roses.
‘‘The employer is requiring employees ... to work a substantial number of duties that are non-tip producing,’’ Liss-Riordan said of Ruth’s Chris. ‘‘This is what Ruth’s Chris does. It’s their policy. It’s not just their Boston restaurant.’’
Liss-Riordan said it’s not unusual for restaurants to require servers to report early or stay late, and many employers may not be aware of the 20 percent threshold.
Liss-Riordan said she plans to seek court permission to obtain a list of Ruth’s Chris employees nationwide to inform them about the lawsuit and their ability to participate in the suit. The chain has more than 100 restaurants, although the Boston eatery is its only one in Massachusetts.
Lanette Jarvis, a spokeswoman for Ruth’s Chris, said the company is reviewing the lawsuit with its lawyers. The company does not typically comment on pending litigation, she said, but she added that Ruth’s Chris complies with all federal and state laws, including labor laws.
Jon Chesto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.