You’d think that a restaurant like Per Se, a place featured in rom-coms as being quintessentially fancy, would have the decency to pay its employees a fair wage and not steal its workers’ tips. But the economy’s bad right now and even the most prestigious restaurants have to make ends meet.

The New York Times reports that Per Se will have to pay employees approximately $500,000 in lost tips due to the restaurant’s shady use of service charges for private dining events. While consumers thought that those dollars were going to the employees who served during their parties, Per Se had a different idea—they pocketed it.

From The Times:

The violations at Per Se, which lasted from January 2011 to September 2012, center on the language the restaurant used on bills for private dining events to describe an additional 20 percent charge. Per Se called it a “service charge,” terminology that could lead customers to believe it represented a tip for employees. The restaurant also told some customers who inquired that the extra charge was a gratuity, the attorney general’s office said.

The money was used, however, not to line the pockets of the servers, but for the restaurant’s “operational costs.” You know, it’s all about the prestige of working at a Thomas Keller joint... even if that prestige comes with an illegal pay cut.

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Per Se has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the mistake was an oversight based on outdated terminology. In addition to returning the money, Per Se must make it easier for employees to complain about unfair labor practices (such as “outdated regulations”), provide servers with more training, and designate a compliance monitor so this kind of oversight doesn’t ever happen again. Really surprised that the employees “hurt by the violations” haven’t set fire to the restaurant or Thomas Keller’s bed of money (on which I like to imagine he sleeps comfortably each night). $500,000? You got off pretty easy, Per Se.


Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.

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