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Supreme Court rejects Applebee’s appeal in labor lawsuit

Bartenders, servers say restaurant chain underpaid them

Thousands of employees at a well-known restaurant chain will have their day in court this fall.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear Applebee’s International Inc.’s appeal in a longstanding labor lawsuit in which more than 5,500 bartenders and servers claim the restaurant chain violated national labor laws by underpaying them. The lawsuit is set to go to trial this September.

The plaintiffs in the suit, who are current and former Applebee’s employees, say the restaurant didn’t pay them the full minimum wage rate for time spent performing non-tip-producing duties such as cleaning and general prep work. Applebee’s contends that federal labor law allows restaurants to pay tipped employees a reduced hourly wage as long as their tips make up the difference between the reduced rate and the full minimum wage.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Applebee’s challenge means that lower federal courts’ rulings will stand. Lower courts previously ruled that the employees’ lawsuit could proceed because a Department of Labor handbook stated that tipped workers were entitled to the full minimum wage for non-tip-producing duties if they spent more than 20 percent of their time on that kind of work.

In its appeal, Applebee’s said the lower court rulings would “impose crushing administrative and financial burdens on restaurants and other employers of tipped employees.”

Read the Wall Street Journal for more information about the suit.

Ashley Post

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