Group of La Fuente servers file class action suit against owners

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A group of servers at La Fuente restaurant have filed a class action lawsuit against the restaurant -- saying they are sick of footing the bill for food sent back to the kitchen. The claim says servers were expected to work and not get paid -- and that they were stuck with the bill when customers would skip out.

Larry Johnson is a labor attorney representing servers at two La Fuente locations. Johnson says it was written policy to have the servers start shifts early and prepare the restaurant, but they weren't allowed to clock in until customers arrived, and so now, a server has served the owners with a class action lawsuit.

"Setting up tables, putting rolling silverware, filling salt shakers, working, making coffee, all that kind of stuff to get the restaurant ready," Johnson said.

Johnson says those kinds of violations aren't all that uncommon, but what is rather uncommon is what the complaint says servers were forced to pay for their uniforms, aprons, hot pads to serve fajitas, order pads and name tags -- and that's not all.

"Anytime a customer walked out without paying the bill, the servers had to pay. Anytime a customer said, this is not what I ordered, food or alcohol drink, the server had to pay for that," Johnson said.

Johnson says the owners were essentially transferring the cost of doing business on to the servers, who were only being paid $2.33 an hour.

The suit now requests those unpaid wages and if they win the case, the court could double it, along with attorneys fees.

Johnson says it is too early to know how much money that could be, but he says it's the price companies pay when they don't follow the law.

"The employees have gone to management and complained about this. Management has not taken those complaints into consideration, or their practices have not changed since those complaints," Johnson said.