Federal court orders Carbondale café, owner to pay $98K in back wages, damages to 31 employees, rectifying jury decision that shorted back wages
CARBONDALE, IL – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a federal court order requiring a Carbondale café to pay 31 workers $98,400 in back wages and damages for operating an illegal tip pool, almost six months after a jury awarded the workers $4,900 – just 10 percent of their back wages – in what the department alleged was an error based on the jury’s instructions and how they interpreted the evidence at trial.
On Jan. 13, 2023, Judge Staci M. Yandle of the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Illinois in Carbondale issued a memorandum and order amending the jury’s July 2022 award. The court responded to a motion made by the department to alter the judgment in light of the error. The $98,400 award is in addition to the $290 in back wages and damages already awarded by the court on summary judgment.
As a result, Dayemi Organization, operating as Longbranch Café and Bakery, and owner Elaine Ramsyer Greenberg must pay $49,200 in back wages – found due by the department’s Wage and Hour Division – and an equal amount in liquated damages. Investigators reviewed the company’s payroll records from February 2018 through February 2020 and determined the company and Greenberg violated federal law when they required baristas and servers to share tips with cooks and dishwashers, who do not normally receive tips.
“The court’s decision restores the rightful amount of back wages investigators found due and shows the U.S. Department of Labor will pursue all available avenues to ensure workers receive their rightful wages,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago.
During the trial, the department established servers and baristas placed all tips received during a shift into a tip jar. At each shift’s end, the company distributed money in the tip jar to employees who worked that shift with 90 percent divided between the servers and baristas, 5 percent to cooks and 5 percent to dishwashers. Back wages were determined by examining the tip credit the employer took for the pay periods audited.
During the four-day jury trial, the jury rendered a verdict finding that the company and Greenberg required servers and baristas to give a portion of their tips to the non-tipped dishwashers and cooks that violated the tip provisions and federal minimum wage requirement. This portion of the jury’s verdict is unaffected by the court’s correction of the back wage award.
“When an employer claims a tip credit, employer-required or mandatory tip pools may only include employees who customarily and regularly receive tips,” explained Wage and Hour Assistant District Director in Meghan Svacina in St. Louis, Missouri. “Violations like these are common in the food service industry, and we encourage workers to contact us if they believe their employer is not paying them all of their earned wages.”
The department’s Quick Service Restaurants Compliance Assistance Toolkit explains wage laws for the industry.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division and how to file an online complaint. For confidential compliance assistance, employees and employers can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
Walsh v. Dayemi Organization Inc. D/B/A
Longbranch Café and Bakery, Elaine Ramseyer Greenberg
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois