Former Prime Italian employee denied motion for class certification in his Uno Restaurant wage lawsuit

By Carrie Salls | May 30, 2018

MIAMI – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in a May 21 ruling denied a motion for certification of a class filed by a former employee of Uno Restaurant Associates Inc., which does business as Prime Italian, as part of a Fair Labor Standards Act and minimum wage law action.

MIAMI – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in a May 21 ruling denied a motion for certification of a class filed by a former employee of Uno Restaurant Associates Inc., which does business as Prime Italian, as part of a Fair Labor Standards Act and minimum wage law action.

In addition to Uno Restaurant Associates, restaurateur Myles Chefetz was also named as a defendant in the proposed collective action.

The court filing said plaintiff Jose Santos Alvarez was employed by Prime Italian in Miami Beach from early 2012 until October 2017.

“As a busser, Alvarez was an hourly-paid, tipped employee,” the filing said. “Alvarez claims that during the relevant period, he and other tipped employees, and in particular other bussers and servers, were forced to share their tips with non-tipped employees such as stockers and sweepers, denied minimum and overtime wages and forced to perform non-tip-producing side work.”

Alvarez filed a collective action and sought conditional class certification to receive unpaid wages, liquidated damages and a ruling related to the class members’ rights under the FLSA and minimum wage laws, the filing said.

The filing said Alvarez also alleged that he was fired by Uno Restaurant Associates in retaliation, but the court said that count of his lawsuit was not part of the class certification motion on which it ruled.

According to the order, “the defendants argue that Alvarez has failed to demonstrate that there are similarly-situated employees who would want to join the class.”

Specifically, the court said the defendants' claim the affidavits Alvarez submitted to back up his certification request “fail to provide sufficient detail about the alleged violations and how the alleged class members are similarly situated, especially given that Alvarez wants to include ‘servers’ and ‘bussers’ in the same class,” even though those two jobs differ significantly.

In the order, U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said “the standard at this stage is lenient,” but “neither the complaint nor the two affidavits Alvarez relies on provide a reasonable basis for the court to conditionally certify a class.”

Scola also said Alvarez did not prove that all of the potential class members were affected by the alleged wage shortfalls and tip-sharing issues that Alvarez experienced.

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