• KYW News 4:30-7am
    04:00 AM - 07:00 AM

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The salmon may have been fat at this center city sushi restaurant, but the servers were being deprived, according to a settlement announced today.

Now, the restaurant — “Fat Salmon” — has agreed to pay five ex-workers tips that had been illegally withheld.

“Initially we were all fed up and we were just going to quit, but we realized we could do something about it — we could also make a change,” says Claire Trindle (far right in photo), spokeswoman for the group of servers who will split $40,000 from their former employer.

She describes a system of tip sharing that was not only byzantine — governed by menu tests, poached for credit card fees, and split with non-tipped workers — but also, according to attorney Henry Yampolsky, illegal.

“All of those actions are actually a direct violation of both the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collections Act, Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act,” he says.

And now, Yampolsky (standing in photo) says, Fat Salmon has agreed to stop those practices as part of the settlement.  The restaurant’s attorney declined comment except to call the case “a mountain out of a molehill.”

However, Fabricio Rodriguez of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (far left in photo), who worked with the servers, describes it as the tip of a widespread iceberg.

“Based on our research, which mirrors that of the Department of Labor, two-thirds of restaurant workers in the last year have suffered some form of wage-taking or wage theft. That comes in lots of forms, whether they were clocked out by a supervisor when they were still working, when they were paid wages that didn’t add up to minimum wage at the end of the week, when they were paid tipped-minimum wage when they were doing non-tipped work,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

Rodriguez said it took a lot of courage for the employees to take a stand against Fat Salmon.

Trindle says she’s proud of what they accomplished. “I consider this to be a milestone in the history of workers rights,” she said.

The announcement comes on the eve of a national strike by workers in the fast food industry to protest low wages.

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