Piccolo e Posto owners ask court to dismiss personal liability claim
Lorraine Enterprises Inc., the owners of Guaynabo restaurant Piccolo e Posto, have filed a motion for reconsideration at the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico regarding a recent judgment ordering them to pay close to $130,000 in pending minimum wages as well as $1,472 in outstanding overtime to 26 workers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In a motion filed late last week, the company contended the court erred by identifying restaurant owner Lorraine Lago and general manager Pedro González as personally liable for the payments allegedly owed.
The defendants asked the court to dismiss the complaint against them in its entirety.
As this media outlet exclusively reported last week, the lawsuit stemmed from an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which found that Lorraine Enterprises, Lago and González failed to inform employees that tips were part of their wages.
However, in the motion, the attorneys for the defendants sought to establish that part of the wait staff included in the claim was hired during the period between 2006 and 2008, when Lago’s husband, Joe Rao was running the restaurant. Rao passed away in December 2008, after which González took over the duties.
In her deposition, Lago said Rao had notified those waiters that their tips would be applied as part of their wages for minimum wage purposes. Furthermore, she said each waiter was notified about the restaurant’s tip credit policy before they accepted the eatery’s job offer.
“It is evident from Ms. Lago’s testimony that the restaurant did comply with notice requirements, at the very least during the period and as to those waiters which Mr. Rao hired. Therefore, the evidence clearly demonstrates that the restaurant complied with ‘giving notice to the employees of the employer’s intention to treat tips as satisfying part of the employers minimum wage obligations,’” the motion stated.
The defendants also raised the issue that plaintiff did not offer up evidence to distinguish which waiters were hired by Rao and which were hired by González, which would affect the final number of employees who would be eligible for backpay. Based on the statute of limitations, only eight employees would qualify to collect.
“The evidence presented by plaintiff clearly demonstrates that there is a genuine material issue of fact regarding the restaurant’s compliance with tip credit notice requirements. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of defendants, this Honorable Court cannot conclude, with plaintiff’s evidence, that each and every one of the employees alleged in the complaint was not notified of the tip credit provisions,” the claim further states.
That said, the attorneys for the defendants asked the court to vacate its judgment and deny the motion for summary judgment, considering that there are enough points on the table to merit their requested trial by jury.