Drivers file class-action suit against takeout restaurant

Former Wings Over Happy Valley delivery drivers have filed a class-action suit against the takeout restaurant.
Former Wings Over Happy Valley delivery drivers have filed a class-action suit against the takeout restaurant. Jhartley@centredaily.com

A group of former delivery drivers have filed a class-action suit against a State College takeout restaurant.

According to the court documents, Jacob Wilson, Ty Carts, Lewis Grove, Colin Krieger and Branden Ronald filed the suit against Wings Over Happy Valley and its owner, Steven Moreira. The claim seeks “overtime and relief” under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law.

Wings Over Happy Valley is located at 244 W. Hamilton Ave. in the State College borough.

The suit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania, and alleges that wages were taken from the plaintiffs “pursuant to an illegitimate, unlawful and unapproved ‘tipping pool’ during the course of their duties as delivery drivers.” The suit covers the named plaintiffs and “on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals.”

Under FLSA and the minimum wage act, employers are expected to pay $7.25 an hour except for any tipped employee, court documents said. Using a “tip credit,” employes may pay a tipped employee below minimum wage as long as “all tips received by such employee have been retained by the employee.”

An exception to this credit is an authorized tip pool, the suit said, in which employers may direct tipped employees to share tips among employees who regularly receive tips.

As delivery drivers, the plaintiffs drove their personal vehicles for the restaurant and received pay rates based on the tip credit, court documents said. The restaurant, according to the suit, routinely required all delivery workers to “tip out” about 8 percent of their tips to provide compensation to kitchen workers.

Kitchen workers are not regularly tipped employees, the suit said, claiming that the restaurant violated the FLSA and minimum wage act by wrongfully retaining the plaintiff’s wages to avoid paying kitchen workers “an appropriate wage.” It’s the plaintiff’s belief that the restaurant was able to pay kitchen workers the standard market rate without requiring their tips.

The suit covers all delivery drivers employed by the restaurant over the last three years, court documents said, which could cover up to 50 individuals.

Moreira could not be reached for comment.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews