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Friday, 05 July, 2019

Farmers Restaurant Group Servers Prevail in Wage & Hour Lawsuit

On June 20, 2019, the Honorable Timothy J. Kelly of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a Final Order in Stephens, et al.  v. Famers Restaurant Group, et al. C.A. No. 17-1087, approving the parties’ settlement of Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and State law wage and hour claims.  The Court determined that the settlement agreement was fair and reasonable. 

The plaintiffs, servers at one of five Farmers Restaurant Group restaurants in the DMV, including Founding Farmers, Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Farmers & Distillers, brought the lawsuit in June 2017 alleging various violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, including charges that:

  • Defendants unlawfully required them to purchase tools of the trade and uniforms, which brought the servers wages below the minimum wage;

     

  • Defendants were not entitled to pay the lower tip credit wages ($2.17 an hour under federal law) for the substantial amounts of side work performed by plaintiffs, and instead should pay the minimum wage;

     

  • Defendants had an unlawful tip pool that included pastry chefs and other “back of the house” workers; and

     

  • Defendants failed to provide paid sick leave under the D.C. Sick Leave Act to Servers who called in sick

 

The lawsuit was hotly contested by defendants, but ultimately settled following multiple days of mediation. 

The settlement requires defendants to pay the 119 FLSA plaintiffs, on average, $4,191 per FLSA plaintiff(and up to $25,000.00, depending on the length of employment as a server). In addition, the 226 state law class members who submitted timely claim forms will receive, on average, $794.42 (and up to $2,628.00 depending on length of service). 

The Court also approved attorneys’ fees, costs, and settlement administrator fees to be paid by defendant. In addition to the backpay, the Court approved a $5,000.00 Service Award to each of the seven lead plaintiffs who were instrumental to the bringing and advancing the litigation, and who all served on the settlement team.

 

    Molly Elkin was lead counsel for the Farmers servers and is a partner at McGillivary Steele Elkin.