Investigation recovers $262K in back wages, damages from Fort Myers restaurant that made servers share tips with chefs, managers, owners illegally
FORT MYERS, FL – While a Fort Myers restaurant operator’s choice to deny 75 servers all of their hard-earned tips may not be an uncommon violation of federal law, the decision comes with familiar and costly consequences after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division learned Ginza Fort Myers Inc. – operating as Ginza Japanese Restaurant – required servers to tip sushi chefs, owners and managers based on the servers’ total sales. The employer’s illegal actions made their tip pool invalid under federal law.
The division also found the employers could not account for $22,000 in tips they withheld and had no records to prove those tips were paid to servers or any other employee. The employer also failed to pay a regular rate and overtime to dual-occupation workers who completed separate job roles. All of these actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
As a result of its investigation, the division recovered $262,322 in back wages and liquidated damages for the affected workers.
“Tips are the property of the employees who earn them. No employer has the right to keep any tips unless they are given directly to the manager who directly serves a customer,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicolas Ratmiroff in Tampa, Florida. “This case shows that when an employer handles tip pools improperly, they may no longer apply a tip credit which can lead to an employer owing employees significant back wages and damages.”
Ginza Fort Myers Inc. is a sushi and hibachi restaurant that opened in 2017 in Fort Myers.
Wage and Hour Division investigators recovered more than $27 million for more than 22,500 workers in the food service industry in fiscal year 2022. 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. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free, also available in Spanish.