Of all the minimum-wage lawsuits we’ve reported on, the one that touched off the most comments was the case of two employees who accused Frank of failing to pay them a wage altogether, and then forcing them to share tips with management. Comments were split between support for the restaurant (“Stop being lazy Miss Joo and Miss Kim!!! Work like the rest of us. What’re you gonna do? Wait for a settlement? Win? No!!! you’re gonna ruin it for EVERYONE”) and for the waiters (“Frank taking advantage of his workers and then laugh at you the patron for making him millions over the years, and THEN jackasses like you continue to support him”). Well, the comments seem to have gotten to one of the plaintiffs, Samantha Young Ai Kim, a bartender who was fired after two months. She’s left a passionate defense of her actions on Shameless Restaurants, and it’s worth a read.
I wanted to reach out to you guys in hopes of finding some support through this. I was recently employed by an East Village mainstay, Frank Restaurant, and was terminated after 2 months. I was told it was bc the owner just “didn’t feel” me. That was a horrible way to “fire” someone but that was/is not my major concern. My major concern is the fact that we employees were never paid a wage and were forced to share tips with him, Frank, the owner; the manager, who was never there; and the kitchen. The suit was filed early Thursday AM and a substantial article was written on Grub Street. Here’s the link. There is a tremendous following of this article. I’ve been reading this blog/website for years and have never read anything like this. So far, 22 comments and they range from support to outright personal and professional attacks. I knew that by doing this, I would find opposition. That’s why I’m coming to you guys. I’ve been in the bar/restaurant industry half my life, or 15 years. I have witnessed many atrocities but never any this egregious. As a bartender, I was required to pay out the kitchen every shift I worked. I was informed on my 2nd night of training that this money used to go to Frank up until a few months before. ??? I have never had to pay my employer to work for him/her. I have never had to pay my manager to do his job. And, paying the kitchen to cook food when the boss should have paid him adequately??? I walked away from the wrongful termination unscathed, really not allowing it to bother me. You know, the “not worth it” thought? But I felt a constant nagging. A nagging that I just couldn’t walk away quietly this time. I had just HAD IT. Frank rules his restaurants through fear and intimidation. As an employee, you are constantly reminded that you could lose your job-that we should be grateful to have a job at all. That we are a “family” and Frank “takes care” of us. There was a running joke by the GM that he would make a shirt that said “YOU’RE NEXT” on it. Not funny. If by “taking care” he meant not paying us a wage and taking our tips, then yes, he took great care of us. One server was auditted and asked to be put on the books. Frank’s reply was, “What, are you fucking stupid?” and said No. There will be plenty of former and current employees signing on for this. Many commenters are telling us we should keep our mouths shut since all our friends are drinking/eating for free or that our actions will increase food prices from legal fees or that we should have quit if we didn’t like the way we were getting paid…and I just can’t even begin to address these comments. They are so completely wrong and misinformed. The best is that we are “out to get money”. Some claimants may have intentions of being repaid the money that was stolen and withheld from them for the past 6 years. I can’t speak for them, but I can tell you that I’m not doing it to get paid. I’m doing this to be HEARD and RESPECTED. I only worked there for 2 months. I just couldn’t turn my back on the people who have lost so much and are too scared to say anything. No matter what job you do, we all deserve an opportunity to make an honest living and this man/company has been stealing from us for 12 years (the statute is only for the past 6, though). Nothing about these restaurants is legal. DOH, DOL, DOS, you name it. I was once told that if I was ever injured working for the company, that I was to just tell them at which hospital I was treated and they would come pay the bill in cash. I worked for their catering company before I was “paid a favor” of bartending in the restaurant and heard of these offenses but I had never witnessed them. I have no personal vendetta against Frank or the management. At some point, they were good people (I can only assume) but a little taste of dipping into the cookie jar with no consequence has deluded them into thinking that it’s ok. Take all the hits at me you want, personally. But, attacking my business? This stand has to do with fair and just treatment, not my latest dinner party (which was amazing, by the way). I am hoping that by explaining myself to the people on The Ghet whom I consider a very solid peer group, I may find some support and most of all some comfort for what I feel to be a very responsible action which will improve the quality of the bar/restaurant industry. If not, I understand that, too. If any of you know of any former or current employees who may be interested in more information, please have them contact me. The bigger the movement, the better the chance of us being heard. Thank you so much for your thoughts.
And thank you so much for your thoughts in the comments.