The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) recently investigated The Skillet Group (Skillet), including Skillet Diner and Skillet Counter, and its owner for alleged violations of the Wage Theft and Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) Ordinances. Skillet settled the allegations and agreed to pay a total financial remedy of $318,782.48 to 181 employees and $4,958.25 to the City of Seattle.
Based on their investigation OLS alleged:
• The restaurants’ service charge disclosure on menus and receipts suggested that 100% of the service charge went to workers serving customers, yet no part was paid to the front of house staff serving customers and large portions went to pay overhead for employee benefits and to the back of house staff.
• Skillet terminated an employee in retaliation for their opposition to the employer’s service charge policy.
• Skillet failed to provide required rest and meal breaks and unlawfully terminated an employee entitled to use paid sick leave for calling out sick without obtaining shift coverage.
“Working in restaurants for a decade, I always assumed there was a legal exemption which meant we were not entitled to rest or meal breaks. There is not. That is illegal. It does not matter where you work or how busy you are. It does not matter if it is the holidays, or someone called in sick,“ said Zara Sedore-Mallin, former Skillet employee. “We have amazing labor laws in Seattle. You deserve to be able to eat, rest, and earn your full wage when you are at work. You are legally entitled to do so.”
“Workers in the restaurant and service industry hold challenging roles, often depending on tips to meet their financial needs. Employers must honor the rights of their workers and comply with Seattle’s labor standards,” said OLS Director Steven Marchese. “Disregarding these laws not only affects the employees but can also extend to the customers they serve, especially if workers are compelled to work while they are unwell.”
The restaurant group has four Seattle locations with approximately 100 employees in Seattle and worldwide. Skillet agreed to develop and implement a written PSST policy and meal and rest break policies, and to distribute an excerpt of the OLS Wage Theft Ordinance Questions and Answers document to all employees.