Thursday, December 12, 2013
PORTLAND - Two banquet servers are alleging in a lawsuit filed Monday that the Eastland Park Hotel failed to give them all the tips to which they were entitled.
The Eastland Park Hotel
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer
Jeffrey Stone and Kimberly Williams brought the "tip skimming" class action in Cumberland County Superior Court against the hotel's owner and operator, Connecticut-based New Castle Hotel & Resorts and Delaware-based Portland II Hotel Management LLC.
Also named as defendants are Rhode Island-based Magna Hospitality Group LC and MHG Portland LLC, which owned and operated the hotel until about February 2011.
According to the complaint, the downtown hotel keeps a portion of gratuities for itself or distributes a portion to managers or other employees who do not serve food or beverages.
The hotel adds a gratuity of 18 to 20 percent to food and beverage bills, including those for banquets, according to the complaint.
Williams has worked as a banquet server at the Eastland since 2004. Stone has worked at the hotel since last year. Their attorney, Hillary Schwab, said she did not know how many other banquet servers might join the legal action.
This is the third lawsuit of its kind brought in Maine by Lichten & Liss-Riordan, the Boston firm that's representing the plaintiffs.
• The first, against the Union Bluff Hotel in York, was settled for $28,000, according to Schwab.
• The second, against the Cliff House & Motels in Ogunquit, was argued before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last month. A decision has not been issued.
Schwab said a change in state law last year says restaurants and hotels may have a "service charge" that is not distributed in full to the wait staff as long as it's clear to customers that it's not a "gratuity" solely for the wait staff.
Dick Grotton, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association, said the state had been using "service charge" and "gratuity" interchangeably, but that created a conflict with federal law.
Under federal law, any amount charged to the bill that is not paid at the customer's discretion is property of the house that is taxable to the house.
Under the revised state law, if it's called a gratuity, all of it must go to the wait staff, he said.
Grotton noted that banquets require employees besides waiters and waitresses to do tasks ranging from planning to set-up and break-down.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org