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Restaurant Horror Show: How Servers Are Abused

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This is the second installment in a new series called Working Ahead, which will examine key issues facing the modern American worker, and how we can use our everyday spending habits to help save and create good jobs. The series is brought to you by the AFL-CIO. To read the other stories in this series, click  here.

Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Ky., was a monument to the power of kitschy sculptures and loud colors. Coverage in magazines like Bon Appetit and from TV personalities like Oprah and Bobby Flay brought tourists, and tourists ate fare like bourbon ball French toast and Hot Brown sandwiches. Weekend mornings, you could count on the place being packed with people whose idea of a good place for brunch involved a collection of ugly lamps and $13 Bloody Marys.

But then in January, a former server named Leila DiFazio accused Lynn's management of firing her over a new policy that paid servers credit card tips on their paychecks rather than in cash at the end of the night, and required waiters to bring $100 cash to work every day to share tips with untipped staff members. DiFazio refused to comply.

"Bringing in $100 each shift is unrealistic for me because I am [a] single mother of a 2 and a half year-old-boy," DiFazio wrote on the website of an organization called Kentucky Jobs With Justice, part of the national group Jobs with Justice.

Kentucky Jobs With Justice printed DiFazio's story as a flier and distributed it around the restaurant. The next day, without explanation,  Lynn's closed.

It's illegal for employers to require tip-pooling, even though tipped staffers often share tips voluntarily with untipped employees like hosts, bussers, dishwashers and cooks. Still, forced tip-pools and other kinds of tip theft are common practices nationwide, according to Daisy Chung, executive director of the  Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, an advocacy group for restaurant workers. 


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