Former employees have joined a federal lawsuit against Northstar Café, alleging the Columbus eatery paid employees under state minimum wage, mis-distributed tip money and underpaid employees for overtime work.
The lawsuit, which was filed on May 25, names Northstar’s Easton and Westerville locations specifically as defendants.
“This is pure and simple; This is wage theft,” said Bob DeRose, who is representing the the former Northstar employees in the case and also serves as managing partner of the law firm Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox. “Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing a significant increase in these types of cases recently.”
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According to former employees, Northstar Café employs a tip credit system, which is common in the restaurant industry and allows eateries to count tips earned toward minimum wage (which in Ohio currently is $10.10) for employees. This means that employees can be legally paid a wage as small as half the minimum wage (which would be $5.05 an hour in Ohio), assuming an employee earns enough tip money to reach minimum wage.
To take a tip credit, employers must follow a “strict set of rules,” according to DeRose, which the suit alleges Northstar did not.
Former employees claim Northstar pooled tips, which is legal, but then distributed tips to employees not customarily or regularly tipped, including kitchen staff and supervisors.
The type of work employees perform during a period of time can determine whether or not a tip credit is applied, and the lawsuit also contends that employees during “Off-Service Hours,” when a tip credit was not taken, were compensated at the federal minimum wage, $7.25, instead of the state minimum wage, $10.10.
The lawsuit also claims that Northstar Cafe improperly calculated overtime wages, leaving certain employees underpaid.
In a statement sent to 614Now, Northstar Cafe refuted what the lawsuit alleges.
“The claims made in the lawsuit are factually inaccurate. Northstar is extremely careful to ensure all policies are legally compliant and fair. While we take these allegations seriously, we believe this lawsuit has no merit,” the statement reads.
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