Varsity Theater and The Chimes restaurant

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

Three former table servers at The Chimes filed a federal court lawsuit this week against the popular restaurant claiming they were pressured to work off the clock for multiple hours each week for no pay.

The suit by Karly Kyzar, Sarah Little and Elizabeth Pruitt alleges the practice "continues to this day," and asks U.S. District Judge John deGravelles to allow any current or former Chimes servers who worked at any of the eateries' three locations within the last three years to join the case.

The suit alleges the managers and owners of The Chimes, which has two locations in Baton Rouge and one in Covington, are aware of the "thousands of uncompensated hours worked by their servers."

"Over the years, their scheme has resulted in a huge savings in labor costs for The Chimes, enriching defendants at the direct expense of their employees," lawyers Daniel Davis, Randall Estes and Vivian Jeansonne with Estes Davis Law LLC state in the suit.

The suit alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 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.

Ed Hardin Jr., an attorney for The Chimes, said in a written statement Friday that "at this point we have not had an adequate opportunity to review the lawsuit."

"However, The Chimes is a good corporate citizen committed to its employees and our community," he said.

The suit notes that 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.

"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," the suit alleges.

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

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 states.

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

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

"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 contends. "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.

The practice of working off the clock and only clocking in during the time when the server is actually waiting on tables "has become the norm at The Chimes," it adds.

  

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