Varsity Theater and The Chimes restaurant

The Chimes restaurant and Varsity Theater on Highland Road in Baton Rouge

Three months after several former Chimes employees alleged they were pressured to work off the clock for no pay at the popular restaurant, their claims are heading to arbitration.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, of Baton Rouge, instructed the clerk of court on Nov. 14 to stay and administratively terminate the lawsuit while giving the parties the right to reopen the litigation.

A Nov. 13 stipulation in the federal court record indicates the Chimes defendants have agreed to a stay of the workers' claims in exchange for the workers' agreement that "any further pursuit of their claims will require that they proceed in arbitration."

Arbitration is a method of dispute resolution involving one or more neutral third parties who are usually agreed to by the disputing parties and whose decision is binding.

The plaintiffs in the case are former table servers Karly Kyzar, Sarah Little and Elizabeth Pruitt, who were hired in 2018.

Daniel Davis, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said he had no comment at this time on the case heading to arbitration.

The defendants are Barco Enterprises, which operates as The Chimes; Chimes owners John D'Antoni, Marianne Hood and Michael Ryan; and Logan McCoy, a Chimes general manager.

The Chimes has two locations in Baton Rouge and one in Covington.

The suit, filed in August, alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and claims the managers and owners of The Chimes are aware of the "thousands of uncompensated hours worked by their servers."

The position of server at The Chimes is a highly coveted job because a server can often earn $150-plus in tips during a single meal shift, according to the suit.

"Knowing this, the defendants hatched a scheme to reduce their labor costs by pressuring servers to perform most of their non-tippable work 'off the clock,' before and after each meal shift," Davis and fellow Estes Davis Law LLC attorneys Randall Estes and Vivian Jeansonne allege in the suit.

Those uncompensated, off-the-clock hours could add up to 15 hours or more per week per server, the suit says.

Lawyers representing the defendants did not respond to requests for comment on the arbitration, but Chimes attorney Ed Hardin Jr. stated after the suit was filed that The Chimes "is a good corporate citizen committed to its employees and our community."

Kyzar, Little and Pruitt were informed when they were hired that they could not work on the clock for more than 40 hours in a single workweek, the suit adds.

They were told that "if they wished to maximize the number of lunch and dinner shifts that they could work in a single week, they would have to perform their mandatory pre- and post-shift work off the clock," the suit says.

That mandatory work included rolling silverware, moving tables and chairs into place, and performing various other tasks, according to the suit.

The Chimes opens for lunch at 11 a.m., but servers are required to arrive at 10 a.m. to perform those tasks, the suit alleges.

"To maximize the number of tipped shifts they could work, plaintiffs were encouraged not to clock in when they arrived at 10:00 a.m., but to wait until they were assigned their first table to clock in," the suit alleges. "This would normally be anywhere between 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m."

After each shift, the suit says, every server is required to work anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour cleaning the restaurant, rolling silverware and making sure sauce bottles are full.

"If the plaintiffs wished to work the maximum number of shifts possible, they would also have to perform this post-shift work off the clock, and without compensation," the suit alleges.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.