Cosme Restaurant in Manhattan, the number one ranked restaurant in the United States according to the World’s 50 Best list, and the current World’s Best Female Chef Daniela Soto-Innes have been sued by Cosme’s front-of-house staff. The workers claim that Cosme failed to pay tipped restaurant employees at least the minimum wage and overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law.
The class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, asserts that Cosme paid tipped employees, including servers, bussers, food runners, sommeliers, bartenders, and barbacks, at the tipped minimum wage, currently $10.00 per hour in New York City, while requiring them to share their tips with non-service employees. Specifically, the workers claim Cosme required them to participate in a shared tip pool including kitchen expediters, who are back of house employees working downstairs in the kitchen with little to no direct customer interaction, polishers who polish and shine glasses and clean off customer plates in a room away from the dining room floor, and shift leaders whose job responsibilities are primarily the same as a manager. The workers claim that as a result, the restaurant was not allowed to take a tip credit against their wages. According to the FLSA, employers can take a “tip credit” and pay tipped employees below the federal minimum wage. The United States Department of Labor regulations provide, however, that a restaurant will not qualify for the “tip credit” when tipped employees share tips with non-tipped workers who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, or when tipped workers do not receive notice of an employer’s intent to claim the tip credit.