Carleton v. The Local Oyster LLC, et al, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02393-JKB (D. Md)

This wage theft class and collective action was brought on behalf of a class of current and former employees of The Local Oyster, a rapidly expanding restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, alleging their employer failed to pay its workers minimum wages dating back to the restaurant’s opening in October 2015.

The lawsuit alleges that the Local Oyster paid its employees a sub-minimum hourly wage of as little as $5.50 per hour, while requiring workers to make up the difference through tips earned and paid by restaurant patrons.  However, the lawsuit alleges that Local Oyster workers regularly spent in excess of 50% of their time performing non-tip producing work, such as washing dishes, cooking, shucking oysters, other food preparation, stocking condiments and cleaning the restaurant.  Federal and Maryland state law allow for payment of a sub-minimum wage to tipped employees only when the non-tipped work they perform is 20% or less of their job duties.

The lawsuit alleges that the Local Oyster’s unfair wage payment practices are actually detailed in its own employee manual, which dictates that during new employees’ training periods, the restaurant will pay such employees a sub-minimum hourly wage for all hours worked, with no access to tips to make up the difference.

This case highlights a pernicious model of restaurant management that is all too frequently adopted by restaurants in Maryland and around the country – namely, a business model whereby all employees perform all job duties in a restaurant and rely on tips to meet minimum wage, even though only a fraction of the work is traditionally tipped work.

A copy of the complaint can be found HERE.

If you have any questions concerning this case or would like to share your experience working for the Local Oyster, please contact Matthew Handley, at 202-559-2411 or [email protected].

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