Restaurant Managers in Hot Water

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Business owners are often sued personally in FLSA suits, but a recent case shows there’s a significant risk for restaurant managers, as well. In Jang et al. v. Woo Lae Oak, Inc., et al., No. 12-cv-00782, 2013 WL 6577027 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 12, 2013), former employees sued the restaurant and the general manager for minimum wage and overtime compensation violations. The GM asked the court to dismiss the claim against her, arguing she was not an “employer” under the FLSA. The court found the GM told customers she was in charge of everything, interviewed job applicants, overruled other managers’ decisions, told one plaintiff that she would pay the back wages, offered to pay another plaintiff higher wages if the plaintiff did not quit, prepared payroll checks for some employees, and oversaw aspects of the restaurant’s financial transactions and accounting. Based on those allegations, the court found a significant factual issue over whether the GM was legally responsible, at least in part, for the alleged FLSA violations.

This case provides a powerful persuasion tool for manager training on wage and hour issues. Even site managers might be held individually liable for a restaurant’s wage and hour violations. Managers who encourage or tolerate practices such as off-the-clock work and unpaid overtime among restaurant employees cannot just point their finger at the company.