When a customer stiffs a waiter on a tip, it is impolite. But, when the boss dips into the tips, it's illegal. NY1’s Susan Jhun spoke with the wait staff at a fancy Upper West Side restaurant, who say it's happening to them and they're fed up.
"Trendy and tasty" rave the reviews for this Upper West Side eatery, but behind the scenes at the popular Telepan Restaurant, wait staff says the atmosphere is much less appetizing.
“They're actually stealing from what their employees are making,” said former Telepan waiter Femi Joseph.
Former and present staff members claim huge portions of their tips are being taken by management. When the waiters sat down with "NY1 For You," all but one asked the station to hide their identities for fear of retribution.
“It's infuriating,” said one employee. “We work extremely hard. We work long hours and then to have someone who's not doing anything basically taking our money from us.”
“It's outrageous, it's unfair,” said Joseph.
And, according to the New York State Labor Law, it’s illegal.
The waiters say they only make $4.60 an hour, so tips are crucial.
Joseph showed NY1 a stack of tip sheets that detail how the tips are divided each night. Looking at this blank tip sheet one can see that managers are boldly listed as one of the groups that get a cut of the tips at the end of the night.
“The managers are making half of what we're making in tips, per shift,” said Joseph.
And Joseph says that might add up to $200 or $300 a week that each waiter is losing.
“It just became more and more difficult for me to make money each week,” said another Telepan employee.
The waiters say when they were hired they were unaware Telepan tipped out managers. And they claim when they complain, they face intimidation.
“There are repercussions if you say anything,” said a third Telepan waiter. “They mess with your schedules; they mess with you on the floor.”
And, they say, it doesn't stop there. These waiters say an additional three percent is taken out of their tips to pay for credit card charges, and their hourly wages are rounded down on their paychecks.
NY1’s calls for comment to the owner of Telepan have gone unreturned.
Joseph filed a complaint with the State Labor Department, which confirmed it is investigating the restaurant and its practices.
A Labor Department spokesperson told NY1 that if Telepan is misappropriating tips, it could owe each worker the tips and the difference between the tip minimum wage and the regular minimum wage for every hour they've worked.
If you'd like "NY1 For You" to look into a problem, call our 24-hour helpline at 212-379-3599 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.