A former waitress who worked at the Fenton, MI location of Buffalo Wild Wings is suing the company for lost wages. Though she and many others were paid a lower wage based on the fact that they received tips, she claims they were expected to perform cleaning and other tasks in the restaurant without being paid minimum wage.
Buffalo Wild Wings, of the Southfield-based Diversified Restaurant Holdings, is being sued by Tammy Wolverton. She recently filed a law suit with the Detroit U.S. District Court for being asked to do work within the restaurant beyond her serving duties, such as cleaning, without being paid minimum wage. Buffalo Wild Wings has not made a statement about the case, but they deny the allegations that servers were expected to participate in dish washing and trash removal.
Wolverton claims that the company is violating the MI state law by not paying their staff at least minimum wage, which is currently $7.40 per hour. She used to work as a waitress for the company and was paid server wages, as they often are since they depends on tips for their income. Her issue was not with relying mostly on tips, but on taking time out of her serving duties and potentially risking losing higher tips because she was required to do tasks outside of her job description without adequate pay. According to the lawsuit, any employee who makes over $30 per month in tips is eligible to be paid $2.65 per hour by the company.
Her attorney, Douglas Werman, argues that the Buffalo Wind Wings crossed the line by enlisting the help of tipped employees to do jobs around the restaurant that are generally the responsibility of those who are paid minimum wage or better. He claims that more than 300 tipped employees who worked at the restaurant over the past three years were affected and he hopes to make this a class-action case against the company.
The argument has support on both sides. While the Michigan Restaurant Association claims that tipped employees earn an average of $16 per hour and are not underpaid, The Restaurant Opportunity Center disagrees with that number and feels that the sub-par tipped employees wage is a loophole for restaurant owners to save on expenses and they feel that waitresses should be included with the minimum wage hike.
This particular lawsuit is just one of many that Buffalo Wild Wings has faced. A long list of claims have been filed against the company, including sexual harassment charges, fired employees that claim racial discrimination, a waitress who slipped on a wet floor, a linen service company who sued them over breaking their contract and an employee forced to resign and promised two weeks worth of pay that he never received.
Buffalo Wild Wings originated in Ohio in 1982. Since then they have opened stores across with U.S. and have 12 locations throughout MI, including the largest restaurant, which id located in Detroit.
Werman is asking for his client to be paid the minimum wages she should have been paid over the last three years of her employment as Buffalo Wild Wings.
By Tracy Rose