A class action in Connecticut seeking back wages for servers (waitresses and waiters) at Ruby Tuesday restaurants was put on hold yesterday by a Superior Court judge in Waterbury. The case involves claims for back wages due to servers at Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Connecticut.
The suit claims that Ruby Tuesday servers are made to perform untipped “side work” (general cleaning and stocking of the restaurant) but that they are paid the lower server wage ($6.38) for that time when Connecticut law mandates that it be paid at the full minimum wage ($10.10). The lawsuit seeks back wages for servers under this law. A server working an average of 30 hours per week could be due over $10,000 in this class action. The waiters and waitresses are being represented by the Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore.
Ruby Tuesday is attempting to avoid the suit by claiming that its servers are required to arbitrate their claims and that they all waived their right to be in a class action. A federal law called the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from interfering with “concerted activities” by employees and several courts have ruled that class action waivers like the one Ruby Tuesday imposed are illegal.
The judge denied Ruby Tuesday’s claim that the lead plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate her claims because she hadn’t signed the agreement. Most other servers were asked to electronically “sign” the arbitration policy. Even those who electronically “signed” the policy may not be bound by it if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that class action bans by employers are illegal.
The United States Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear argument in cases where class action waivers like this have been used. The employees all claim that they should be able to sue collectively and the employers all claim that they are allowed to ban class actions. Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled for the Fall of 2017. A ruling could be issued by the Spring of 2018.
Because that case affects the Ruby Tuesday Connecticut class action, the Connecticut judge ordered that the case be “stayed” or put on hold until the Supreme Court rules.
This “stay” of the lawsuit will not hurt the claims of the servers it intends to protect. Servers who worked at Connecticut Ruby Tuesday restaurants from May 27, 2014 to the present fall within the class definition in this case. Under the law, all servers who fall within the class definition have their claims protected even though the case is not moving ahead at this time. This is called “tolling.”
Those Connecticut Servers who left Ruby Tuesday before October 2015 aren’t bound by the arbitration policy and Ruby Tuesday has no claim that they waived their right to bring a class action.