Ocean City Today

West Ocean City establishments sued over wages

Growing number of resort restaurants facing lawsuits
By Brian Gilliland | Oct 09, 2017

(Oct. 6, 2017) Former employees, citing wage and hour violations, are suing two more Ocean City restaurants, and another responded to its own case by issuing a near blanket-denial of the claims.

The limited liability companies that own and operate Mickey Fins and Sunset Grille in West Ocean City join Dead Freddies, Fat Daddies, Abbey Burger Bistro and Hooper’s Crab House in the growing number of resort restaurants that have faced accusations of violating federal and state wage laws. To date, all of the claims have been settled out of court without admissions of guilt, but some included payments of tens of thousands of dollars to some of the plaintiffs.

Mickey Fins and Sunset Grille will face the lawsuit together, because one of the plaintiffs, Melvin Wallace of Berlin, Maryland, asserts both sites employed him and they were run as essentially one operation. The other plaintiff, Josh Cannon of Ocean City, states he was employed by Sunset Grille.

The defense disputes this claim, admitting the two businesses share some owners and investors, and advertise each other on their respective websites, but little else.

Cannon, according to the complaint, was employed as a bar-back, essentially helping bartenders keep operations running smoothly by restocking alcohol and performing other related tasks. Cannon states he was also required to manage the alcohol inventory, but would not be paid for the duties or be allowed to clock-in while those responsibilities were being executed. Later, Cannon said he would be paid a flat fee of $150 each month to handle the inventory. Cannon said there were times when he did not receive a share of tips for this work.

The defendant denied these claims.

Later, during a disputed timeline, Cannon was also given responsibilities to receive deliveries, where he was again paid a flat fee of $150 per supply drop. He claims to have been told by an owner that he could not clock-in while performing these duties. Cannon also claims he was not paid at all for these duties during the offseason.

The defense also disputes these claims.

Additionally, Cannon claims he spent significant time preparing for catered event at the restaurant, only to be told it was charity work after the fact. The defense replied the event was not a Sunset Grille event, and the host should have paid him.

The other defendant, Melvin Wallace, said he began work at Mickey Fins in May 2015, but was transferred to Sunset Grille in October 2015. During this time, Wallace contends he was paid only in tips without any regard to minimum wage.

The defense denied this claim.

Both plaintiffs also assert they worked far more than 40 hours per week during their employment, particularly during the summer, and were never paid overtime.

The defense also denied these claims.

Also, attorneys representing Hooper’s Crab House in its own wage lawsuit, filed in early July by former employees, issued a required response and denied most of the claims.

The one admission the restaurant was willing to concede is that a policy existed at one time to have another employee clock servers in and out.

According to the complaint, the restaurant “… maintained a practice consistently of having a restaurant hostess clock-in the time for all servers (including servers assigned to work at Sneaky Pete’s). Servers, including Plaintiff [Casey Knox], would pick up their time card each day and give it to the hostess to clock them in when … tables were sat.”

The paragraph contains several more sentences, but the defense’s answer renders them moot.

T. Christine Pham, the defense’s attorney out of Baltimore, responded to the accusation by admitting “that a ‘hostess,’ a responsibility that several servers took turns filling, would receive a time card from a server to clock the server in and out,” but denied the remaining accusations in the same paragraph.

It was further noted this policy was changed before summer 2016.

The lawsuit encompasses several different complaints, ranging from hour manipulation, to engaging in a questionable tip-pooling arrangement, to forcing staff to pay for walkouts, which are actionable under Maryland wage laws.

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