A complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court today alleges the company stole tips from employees in violation of District law
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 7, 2023) – Today, the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 Union and a former employee of Union Kitchen have filed a lawsuit under D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law against Union Kitchen and its beneficial owner, Cullen Gilchrist, for withholding employees’ tips in violation of District law.
“D.C. law makes clear that employees are entitled to timely payment of all wages owed, and that tips are part of those wages,” explained Nick Jackson, attorney for the worker plaintiffs. “The complaint filed today alleges that Union Kitchen withheld thousands of dollars of tips from its employees. There is no excuse for wage theft under D.C. law, and this lawsuit aims to stop such practices.”
Under D.C. law, employers found liable for wage theft are required to provide full back pay to victims, plus triple that amount in additional damages. Employers are also required to pay attorneys’ fees to successful plaintiffs.
The complaint, filed in D.C. Superior Court this morning, alleges that Union Kitchen customers left tips for Union Kitchen’s employees in its D.C. stores. Employees believed they were receiving the full amount of those tips in their paychecks, but when workers compared the tips they earned against the amounts allocated to tips in their paychecks, they learned that Union Kitchen had been withholding a portion of the tips they earned, totaling more than $1,000 for many employees.
UFCW Local 400 alleges in the complaint that Union Kitchen employees had multiple meetings concerning this discrepancy with Union Kitchen CEO and beneficial owner, Cullen Gilchrist, during which Mr. Gilchrist admitted Union Kitchen had been wrongfully keeping employees’ tips. Despite acknowledging its wrongdoing and more than a year after the problem was brought to its attention, the complaint states that Union Kitchen has refused to fully compensate employees for these stolen tips in accordance with D.C. law.
The complaint further alleges that, when Union Kitchen employees insisted that going forward they be able to compare the tips they received against the tips paid by customers, Union Kitchen retaliated against the employees by removing their ability to receive tips altogether.
A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.
Today’s lawsuit is the latest allegation of workplace violations against Union Kitchen and its owner, Cullen Gilchrist. Last month, the company reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board after the federal agency found Union Kitchen had committed 26 violations of federal labor law over its workers efforts to unionize. The settlement required Union Kitchen to pay nearly $25,000 to former employees who were fired or disciplined in retaliation for their support of the union. In addition, the company was also ordered to post a notice detailing their wrongdoing and explaining workers rights to form a union under federal law. Workers at five Union Kitchen locations in DC and Virginia unionized in June.
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 is led by President Mark Federici and represents 35,000 members working in the grocery, retail, health care, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. www.ufcw400.org