Gordon Ramsay Sued by Ex-'Fat Cow' Employees

By Betty Wang, JD on June 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Surprise, surprise, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is being sued. However, it's not for his famously colorful verbal treatment of other chefs and cooks. Instead, some ex-employees at his Los Angeles restaurant, The Fat Cow, are suing his company for alleged wage and overtime violations.

The plaintiffs, former servers and baristas, allege in a proposed class action lawsuit that Ramsay's restaurant required them to work through their breaks without compensation, Radar Online reports. They also claim they weren't paid minimum wage or overtime, among several other related allegations.

The plaintiffs' claims all fall under the California Labor Code. But as this lawsuit moves forward, what questions still need to be answered?

What Were They Paid?

In the Gordon Ramsay lawsuit, were the plaintiffs paid minimum wage? What about tips? And were they properly compensated for working overtime?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-salaried employees must be paid at least the minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, while state levels vary; the employee is ultimately owed whichever is the highest.

California's minimum wage is currently $8 an hour. But if the plaintiffs were tipped workers, then their hourly wage, plus tips, must have totaled at least $8 an hour. Neither the lawsuit, nor news reports, disclose how much money the plaintiffs were paid.

What Breaks Did They Get?

The plaintiffs claim they were routinely denied lunch breaks and other work breaks as well. But were workers actually forced to work through their breaks, or did they choose to do so?

Laws on this issue can get tricky. For example, under California's Labor Code, most hourly workers get a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. But if a worker chooses to work through her lunch break, she can; the employer is then liable for straight (not overtime) pay if the employer "knew or reasonably should have known that the worker was working through the authorized meal period," the California Supreme Court ruled last year.

Did They Get Paid Upon Discharge?

Seeing as how the plaintiffs are now former employees, did they get paid right away upon termination? California's law requires that employees get their final paychecks within 72 hours of being discharged. It's not clear when the ex-Ramsay employees were paid.

In response to the lawsuit, a Ramsay spokesman told Radar Online that "there was a problem with previous management" at The Fat Cow, "which has since been changed." The suit was filed June 14 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

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