‘Tip-skimming’ lawsuit against Chickie’s and Pete’s grows, could reach 300 plaintiffs

Thirteen more plaintiffs have joined a federal unfair labor practice lawsuit filed by former Chickie’s and Pete’s bartender Anthony LaPlante – and that number could grow to as many as 300 employees of the popular sports bar, according to an amended complaint filed late last week.

“As more people find out about their rights, they want to join up on the case,” plaintiffs’ attorney Louis Pechman of Berke-Weiss & Pechman said. “And we’re happy to have more participation.”

The suit originally claimed that Chickie’s and Pete’s skirted minimum wage requirements by forcing bartenders and waitstaff to pay two to four percent of their gross sales back to the restaurant in cash, a fee workers allegedly called the “Pete Tax” in reference to owner Pete Ciarrocchi.

The amended complaint elaborates on that practice, claiming that a manager at each franchise location would collect the “tax” from waitstaff at the shift’s end and that a representative from the corporate office would once a week come and pick up the cash.

The complaint also claims that those employees who didn’t make enough to cover the tip-out were told by managers to “tap MAC,” or withdraw the money from their personal bank accounts.

“The failure to properly pay restaurant workers is a nationwide problem,” said Pechman, who has represented employees in nearly 100 similar cases and founded New York City restaurant worker advocacy site WaiterPay.com. “There are a number of elements to it. It’s a cash business, it’s a low-margin business and there are complicated rules.”

Spokesman for Chickie’s and Pete’s Kevin Feeley said that owner Pete Ciarrocchi had, as of Monday morning, not been served with the amended complaint.

“These allegations are, first of all, that – just allegations at this point,” Feeley said. “But what Pete has said from the start is, ‘Look, we’re certainly looking into this and trying to determine if there’s a factual basis for the allegations. If it turns out there are things that need to be changed, Pete’s always going to err on the side of trying to do the right thing for his employees.”

More plaintiffs, more problems

Other allegations in the amended complaint include:

– Chickie’s and Pete’s did not allow waitstaff to leave until their carpeted sections were clean, but only provided them with brooms. Therefore, employees were “required to purchase their own Shark vacuum cleaners.”

– Chickie’s and Pete’s forced servers to pay the bills of “dine and dash” patrons and bartenders to make up for any shortage in their end-of-shift cash till using personal funds.

– Chickie’s and Pete’s required workers to wear company t-shirts, but deducted the cost from their paychecks.

– When not engaging in the alleged “tip-out scheme,” some of the restaurant’s locations paid employees a flat $15 shift pay for shifts that typically lasted 10 hours or more.

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