Johnny Rockets ordered to pay waiters $570K over tipping scheme

A federal judge has ordered two Johnny Rockets restaurants in the nation’s capital to pay workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages over alleged minimum wage and overtime violations.

The consent judgement will require Johnny Rockets to pay $571,460 in back wages and damages to 55 waiters and waitresses. The order applies to the local restaurants, but not the rest of the company.

The Department of Labor claimed Johnny Rockets violated federal labor law by requiring the servers to pool their tips with cooks and dishwashers, who worked behind the scenes at the restaurants.

As a result of the tipping scheme, these servers were not paid a fair minimum wage, the Labor Department argued. The restaurants were also accused of violating overtime laws when servers worked more than 40 hours in a week.

"Many restaurants require servers to pool their tips for workers to share equally,” the Labor Department explained. "A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not receive tips customarily and regularly, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and janitors.

"When an employer utilizes employees’ tips for any purpose other than a valid tip pool, as was the case at Johnny Rockets, it is a violation of the tip credit provision,” the agency added.

The alleged violations occurred between 2013 and 2015 at the Johnny Rockets restaurants in Union Station and Arlington, Va., according to the agency.