Two bartenders at Pat O’Brien’s claim in a lawsuit that the world-famous New Orleans attraction does not pay minimum wage and confiscates substantial portions of their tips.
The home of the Hurricane, a large rum drink, also avoids payment of some overtime obligations, according to Metairie residents Steven Fruge and Michael Harris. The bartenders filed suit against the 80-year-old bar and its principal owner, Shelly Waguespack, in New Orleans federal court Tuesday.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Waguespack said Friday. “We were quite surprised when this appeared” in federal court. “There is absolutely no basis for this lawsuit.”
Waguespack described the allegations as “absolutely” false.
Fruge and Harris said in their suit they often lose $600 to $1,000 per week in tips that are confiscated by bar managers.
New York attorney Louis Pechman represents the two bartenders. Pechman wrote in the suit that pay practices in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are believed to have been used at the bar for more than 30 years.
On the website for Pechman’s law firm, Pechman says he has extensive experience in restaurant litigation involving claims of FLSA violations.
Pechman adds he has recovered over $20 million “in back wages for restaurant workers.”
Fruge said in the New Orleans suit he has tended bar at Pat O’Brien’s since March 2008. Harris said he became a bartender at the French Quarter fixture in April 2011.
Both men seek the return of tips they say were confiscated. They also want payment of damages for unpaid minimum and overtime wages.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey.