Employees of two popular Lowcountry restaurants have filed suits claiming the restaurants' management is using unfair labor practices, according to federal court documents.
The suits were filed within the past two months against Hyman's Seafood in downtown Charleston and Wasabi II on Daniel Island.
Representatives from Wasabi II and the attorney representing the two former Wasabi II employees could not be reached for comment Friday.
Among the two suits, one was filed earlier this month by five employees against Hyman's Seafood, which is located on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.
It was unclear Friday whether the plaintiffs are current or former employees.
The plaintiffs allege the restaurant is violating a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers tip credit and paying proper minimum wage, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs argue Hyman's should be paying them the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour if their tips are distributed incorrectly, according to the complaint. The former employees are suing for damages, including their alleged unpaid wages, overtime, the tips that were allegedly redistributed as well as attorneys' fees and costs.
The federal labor law allows employers to pay tipped employees below minimum wage, but only if the tips that are pooled are distributed among employees who regularly receive tips, according to the complaint.
By tipping employees, such as the salad preparers, who don't usually receive tips, the restaurant invalidated their wage exception and are then required to pay the minimum wage, according to the complaint.
Bruce Miller, an attorney representing the plaintiffs said he believes more former employees will likely join the suit.
Alice Paylor, the attorney representing Hyman's Seafood released this statement:
"As a longstanding and successful member of this community and local employer, Hyman's Seafood has always treated its employees fairly and according to the law. Because this matter is in litigation and before the Court, we cannot comment in any detail. Rather, we will respond in court. Thus, we can only say that we are reviewing the complaint and the plaintiff's allegations and will respond as provided for by the Court and the law."
Two former employees who filed suit against Wasabi II in June are claiming similar allegations as the suit against Hyman's. The employees allege wage theft claiming the restaurant took portions of their tips and used that money to pay the wages of the hourly employees who did not receive tips, according to their complaint.
The plaintiffs also alleged the restaurant failed to pay the correct overtime wages, the complaint stated.
The former Wasabi II employees also are suing for alleged unpaid wages, overtime, tips, attorneys' fees and costs.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.