A State College restaurant facing a class-action lawsuit has denied any wrongdoing and instead accused one of the plaintiffs of defrauding the establishment.
A group of former delivery drivers brought the suit against Wings Over Happy Valley, located at 244 W. Hamilton Ave., in May. The suit alleges that the restaurant, and alleged owner Steven Moreira, unlawfully required drivers to participate in a “tip pool” used to compensate other workers.
Specifically, the suit claims that drivers were routinely required 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 Fair Labor Standards Act and state Minimum Wage Act by wrongfully retaining the plaintiff’s wages to avoid paying kitchen workers “an appropriate wage.”
In a defendant’s answer to the May complaint, filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Moriera and Wings Over denied engaging in unlawful tip-pooling practices, specifically denying that Moriera individually owns or operates the restaurant and individually employed the plaintiffs.
The response claimed that two of the plaintiffs — Jacob Wilson and Ty Carts — did perform duties as delivery drivers, but were also employed as a driver manager and shift manager, respectively, and were paid more than minimum wage, excluding tip income. The response further claimed that wages were not “taken” from the plaintiffs, who were not required to participate in a “tipping pool” at all.
The defendant’s response admitted to having a tip jar for kitchen workers — who were reportedly paid between $9 and $10.50 per hour — and any contributions made to the jar were entirely voluntary.
“At no time did Wings Over or Mr. Moreira withhold, take or in any way place the delivery drivers’ tips into that jar,” the document said. Wilson, it claimed, was “expressly informed in writing that the tip jar in question was voluntary.”
The response denied that the plaintiffs were subject to any common or general rule, policy or communication regarding a tip pool, further denying that the plaintiffs unlawfully lost any income. The response requested the court enter judgment in favor of the defendants, awarding “reasonable” attorney’s fees and costs.
In the response, the defendants claim Wilson was paid $15 per hour when acting as the driving manager and $6 per hour when acting as a delivery driver, during which time he earned tip income from customers. The document alleges that on several occasions, Wilson misrepresented his roles when tracking the time he worked, falsely entering time as a manager while working as a driver.
These misrepresentations resulted in him being paid a higher wage, the response claimed, saying he intentionally defrauded the restaurant of money. The defendants seek further judgment in favor against Wilson with additional monetary damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.