The state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced they have filed wage theft charges on December 16, 2019 against the Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, of Everett, WA, and its owner, Anthony Reeves.
Deductions from Pay Led to Wage Theft Charges
The complaint, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, stems from Reeves’ taking a $2.99 “meal” charge from 156 employees during each shift worked between December 2016-April 2019. The Monte Cristo owner was taking the money from workers’ paychecks without their permission, in return for allowing them to eat extra food from catered events — whether the workers wanted to eat the food or not.
In all, the deductions covered 4,100 shifts and totaled $12,386.86.
“Employers do not have the right to deduct whatever they want from their employees’ paychecks without their consent,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “If you have concerns about deductions on your paycheck, you should reach out to the Department of Labor & Industries. When Washington workers’ rights are violated, L&I and my office will partner to enforce the law.”
Double Damages and Attorney Fees Sought
Only deductions authorized under law or taken with advance written permission of the employee are allowed. Even with permission, the deductions must benefit the worker, not the employer. Because the deductions were intentional, the state is asking for double the damages and attorney fees.
“Reeves took money workers earned and used it for his own benefit,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said. “Working with the Attorney General’s Office gives us additional tools to stand up for employees and make sure they’re being treated fairly. While the amount of money taken from individual workers each shift may seem relatively small, in the end it added up to thousands of dollars that should have gone to employees and their families and not into the owner’s pockets.”
Employees filed complaints
The Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, 1507 Wall St. in Everett, stopped operating in October. Since the sudden closure, more workers have filed wage complaints with L&I.
The business has had a history of wage complaints. From 2015-19, there were 10 complaints filed against the company for just over $3,300 in wages.
L&I attempted to settle with Monte Cristo for the wages owed workers. An agreement drafted in September set out a payment schedule through October 2020, and ordered the restaurant to stop taking money for employee meals without the employee’s consent. Reeves never signed the final document.
L&I oversees the state’s wage-and-hour laws. The agency investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information on wages or filing a complaint is available on L&I’s wage and hour webpage (www.Lni.wa.gov/wages). Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.
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Photo Credit: Sabel Blanco