Class action lawsuit filed against Eddie Merlot's over tipping policy
Who gets the tip when you leave it on the table?
Wednesday, June 18th 2014, 4:01 pm EDT by
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Who gets the tip when you leave it on the table?
The debate in one of Louisville's finest steakhouses triggered this class action lawsuit.
Eddie Merlot's stands as a cornerstone on 4th Street Live! boasting some of Louisville best steaks.
"I'm a server now," said Michael Parsley, a server at the steakhouse. "If I work all night and don't get a drink from the bar, I shouldn't have to tip the bartender, should I?"
Michael Parsley helped open the high-dollar restaurant more than three years ago. Now he's one of the eight current and former employees suing it. At issue: Eddie Merlot's tip pooling policy.
Parsley says he can't tip colleagues based on what a customer leaves in gratuity. Eddie Merlot servers are forced to put five percent of their daily sales into a pot for hosts, runners, and other support staff, who make minimum wage, while he earns $2.13 an hour.
"We do not have a problem tipping our staff," Parsley said. "Now, sometimes, the staff realizes they're going to make that money regardless of what they do."
"That's not fair," he added. "I think everybody would hustle more if I handed him money at the end of the night versus he's getting what he's getting regardless of what I made."
Sharing tips is common in restaurants, but in Kentucky it's illegal to require it.
Some workers from Lynn's Paradise Cafe claim they were fired for not following this restaurant's tip sharing policy. The owner denied that allegation. A few weeks later, the restaurant closed.
Two former employees at Doc Crows filed a similar tip-sharing lawsuit. It was dismissed.
Diners and former servers themselves are on the fence.
"We never pooled our tips -- we just rotated tables," said Vytas Dovrovolskis, a former bartender.
"They were all part of the process, from seating people to getting the food out," said former server Kelly Lasita.
Company leaders would only tell WDRB they haven't seen the class action suit yet and couldn't comment on the case.
"It's a great restaurant," said Parsley.
Parsley says he likes his job, but he wants to be able to afford to keep it.
"We work here, this is how it is now, we want it to change," he said. "Sometimes one voice or eight voices can help that change, and I hope it changes in Louisville and Kentucky and nationally."
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