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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Café Gratitude Sued By Employee Over Tip Pooling

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 4:34 PM

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Café Gratitude, the vegan/raw food restaurant whose menu tells you what you are today ("I Am Elated" is an enchilada, "I Am Transformed" is tacos), is being sued by an employee who just isn't feeling the love.

Sarah Stevens claims in a suit filed in Superior Court that Café Gratitude's tip pooling scheme took money from her. Or, "I Am Entitled."

Stephens says she has worked for Café Gratitude since 2005, and still works at the Harrison Street location.

According to a press release issued by Stevens' attorney Stephen Sommers,

"In addition to not receiving her rest and meal periods, Stevens alleges that she is required to participate in an unreasonable and uncustomary tip pooling scheme that leaves her with a very small percentage of the tips she earns as a server. Specifically, Stevens alleges that after tipping out 20% of her daily tips to the 'central kitchen' -- an offsite kitchen on 14th Street -- Stevens must then split the remaining 80% of her tips equally with all of the Café Gratitude staff, including the 'shift leaders' and retail employees."

Wow, "I Am Shortchanged!"

Reached by phone, Sommers told SF Weekly that he expects to ask for more than $75,000. "The law does not permit a restaurant to give tip money to people who aren't part of what they call 'the service chain'," Sommers said, citing California Labor Code sections 350 and 351. "You can give a little bit of money to the host, but not to a short-order cook."

Chandra Gilbert, Café Gratitude's director of operations, told SF Weekly, "We have a tip-sharing policy that we allow our employees to vote on. The only people allowed to vote are those who get tipped."

Gilbert said the most recent vote was held just last week, and "88 out of 103 traditionally tipped employees voted to continue to share with everybody," she said. "We also have people sign a voluntary tip agreement when they're hired." Gilbert said Stevens signed the agreement and added, "She is an employee in good standing at this time."

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W. Blake Gray

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