After word surfaced this week that one of the most popular restaurant companies in Southwest Michigan was under fire from the U.S. Department of Labor over wage issues, the company has stepped up to resolve the issue and is publicly detailing what transpired.
Clementine’s of South Haven and Clementine’s Too of St. Joseph have long been popular hotspots for both communities with patrons willing to wait patiently for a table to enjoy the offerings at each location.
The company is alleged to have run afoul of wage laws regarding tipping and a certain class of employees. A Grand Rapids TV station rolled out the story and it was picked up by several newspapers before the restaurant stepped up to the window to explain.
The issue has now been resolved according to owner Al Ruppert, and this statement was posted on the company’s Facebook fan page this week:
Dear Clementine’s Family,
As you have probably heard, there was a judgment filed in Federal Court against Clementine’s Saloon, Inc., Clementine’s Too, Incl and Al Ruppert. We have been asked by those that care for a statement:
“Clementine’s appreciates its employees, treats them fairly and believes that it fully has complied with the law. We disputed and vigorously defended ourselves against what we believe were unfounded charges by the U.S. Department of Labor. However, for business reasons, in order to avoid protracted and costly litigation, the company decided to enter into a modest settlement agreement.”
So, what happened:
Last November, we had U.S. Department of Labor Investigation. We were told it was a “random” investigation. They reviewed over 20,000 pages of payroll records and interviewed our employees. Their findings were that our “Expeditor” position, should not have received tips from the waitresses and the bar tenders which is considered part of the “tip pool”. This person delivers the food to the bar customers and the to-go customers and “trays up” the food for the waitresses.
The judgment calls it a “minimum wage issue” because a server is considered, under labor guidelines, a minimum wage employee, even though with their tips they make far above minimum wage. By having them share a small portion of their tips with the Expeditor, their wage, by definition, was below minimum wage.
To “fix” it, the department of labor has decided that Clementine’s will pay back the portion of the money that was “tipped” to the Expeditor, back to the waitresses and the bar tenders.
Thank you for your continued loyalty and support.