Ocean City Today

Wage suit filed against Hooper’s

Lawsuit latest in string of complaints against resort eateries for pay concerns
By Brian Gilliland | Aug 24, 2017
Photo by: Josh Davis Hooper's crab house

(Aug. 25, 2017) Another wage, tip and overtime lawsuit against a resort restaurant was filed in early July, this one accusing Hooper’s Crab House of not reporting accurate work hours.

Eight plaintiffs have joined Casey Knox, of Severna Park, Maryland in the suit against the restaurant. The others, so far, have local or nearby addresses.

Knox was employed twice by the restaurant, from early June until Sept. 1, 2015, and again in late May to early July 2016.

Knox alleges she initially trained as a hostess, but was moved into a server position relatively quickly. Servers’ hours, according to court documents, were more or less determined by where they were stationed in the restaurant. For example, employees assigned to Sneaky Pete’s, the outdoors bayside bar, were expected to report before 11 a.m., and the shift could last until midnight, according to the complaint.

Inside the main building, servers were expected to report around 3 p.m. for prep work, and could be expected to end their shifts between 10-11 p.m., while outside on the main deck, work would begin around 2 p.m. and end at 11 p.m. or later, depending on business conditions, according to the complaint.

Knox contends that during her first term at the restaurant, the hostess, not the employee, clocked in all servers. She further alleges that the time recorded was not when they reported to work, but when patrons had begun to be seated at tables.

Knox also said she was told by managers that servers would not be paid for work prior to the restaurant actually opening for service because it would encourage servers to arrive earlier than necessary.

The hostess would then clock the employees out when patrons were no longer being seated at the tables, but before cleanup work was completed, according to the suit.

The complaint notes that this policy had changed by the time Knox returned to work at Hooper’s the following year.

During both terms of her employment, Knox’s complaint states she and other servers were required to hand over all of their tips to the closing bartender each night, who then passed the money along to the manager. Servers were required to fill out paper sheets listing their tip amounts. The complaint states the plaintiffs believe that 5 percent of the pooled tips that was supposed to go to food runners was ultimately kept by the management.

The complaint also accuses the defendants of forcing servers to pay for walkouts, which is prohibited by state law.

Royette Shepherd, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Pete, expressed astonishment and disappointment at the accusations.

“How do you comment on something that knocks you out at the knees,” she said.

Shepherd said she’d been in business for 36 years and treated her employees like her children, though there was a “certain percentage” out to get something they weren’t owed.

“This town and this industry is in for a rude awakening,” Shepherd said, referring to this and other lawsuits filed by former employees like Dead Freddies, Fat Daddy’s and Abbey Burger citing wage violations.

The defense has until early September to respond to the charges.

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