The Suit Alleges That They Did Not Receive Gratuities Due To Them
By Dolores Quintana
A class action lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles against the Joint Venture Restaurant Group, which owns restaurants Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, Son of a Gun, Petit Trois, Helen’s, and Cookbook, alleging that servers were not remitted the proper gratuities in their paychecks by the restaurants and restaurant group.
The two servers named in the suit as the plaintiffs are Jordan Slaffey and Karla Jobe. Slaffley worked as a server at Jon & Vinny’s Beverly Hills, Slauson, Fairfax, and Brentwood locations. Jobe worked as a server at Jon & Vinny’s Beverly Hills location. The suit states that these plaintiffs have filed the suit on behalf of themselves and any other non-managerial food and beverage employees who worked at any of the restaurant group’s restaurants during the time period when the allegations took place.
The allegations state that the restaurant group failed to remit gratuities under Labor Code Section 351, which prohibits employers and their agents from sharing in or keeping any portion of a gratuity left for or given to one or more employees by a patron.
In Joint Venture Restaurant Group’s restaurants, an automatic service fee of 18% is charged to each customer’s bill. According to the lawsuit, they believe it is a reasonable assumption for customers to assume that this service fee is a tip for the servers, and normally, servers get tips that range from 15% to 20%. The lawsuit states, “When customers have paid these 18 percent service charges on Defendant’s bills, it is reasonable for them to have believed they were gratuities to be paid to the service staff, as that is customarily the percentage added as gratuity or tip in the hospitality industry.”
The suit adds, “Customers have paid these 18 percent charges reasonably believing they were to be remitted to the service staff. However, Defendant has not remitted the total proceeds of these gratuities to the nonmanagerial employees who serve the food and beverages at its restaurants. Instead, Defendant has had a policy and practice of retaining for itself a portion of these gratuities and/or using a portion of these gratuities to pay managers or other non-service employees.”
Joint Venture Restaurant Group responded via a statement as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, which said, “Ten years ago, we recognized that the traditional tip model rewarded some employees, but left many employees behind – creating a huge disparity where some employees did very well, and others did not.” The statement adds, “not only unquestionably benefits hourly employees, but it is unquestionably legal, having been vetted by independent leading professionals in the hospitality industry.”
It is the servers’ belief that, therefore, they have not been remitted the full amount of gratuities that they are entitled to by law. Such charges have become customary practices in Southern California, but this is not the first time that the distribution of such service fees has been questioned. As we reported, Ten Five Hospitality which owns Mother Wolf, Ka’teen, Mes Amis, Bar Lis, and the Terrace at the Maybourne Beverly Hills Hotel, is under investigation by the Los Angeles City Attorney over a five percent “wellness” fee that employees claim was not distributed to them in violation of a city ordinance.