‘Salt Bae’ steakhouse chain sued for allegedly stiffing overtime pay
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The upscale steakhouse chain founded by internet phenom ‘Salt Bae’ has been sued — again.
This time, five of the company’s grill men — who said they were recruited to move from Turkey to work at the company’s US locations — have filed a lawsuit, alleging that they were stiffed on overtime pay.
The suit, which was filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, alleges that Nusret Gokce, who was nicknamed "Salt Bae" by internet users, misclassified the five employees as managers to avoid paying overtime — while insisting they regularly work seventy hours or more per week.
Gokce himself is named as a defendant in the suit as well as his Saltbae Burger restaurant in New York and the Nusr-Et Steakhouses in New York, Miami and Dallas.
Four of the five plaintiffs, Ersel Ok, Muhammet Yilmaz, Emre Isler and Eyyup Yeniceri, live in Queens while the fifth, Ibrahim Gecit, lives in Miami, the suit says.
The five men, all Turkish citizens, worked at Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Istanbul before the chain recruited and "Gokce personally encouraged" them to move to the chain’s US locations, according to the suit.
The men allege that their visa applications and official job descriptions overhyped the work they would actually be doing to paint them "as employees with managerial authority" in order to "misclassify Plaintiffs as exempt and avoid paying them overtime wages."
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But after arriving in the US, the suit says, the men were assigned "to work grueling hours in non-managerial positions at the restaurants" even though they were only eligible to be paid a flat weekly salary.
All of the men most recently made a weekly salary of $1,125, regardless of how many hours they worked, the suit charges.
So-called non-exempt workers, which are most non-managerial positions, are entitled to overtime pay equal to 1.5 times their hourly wage after working 40 hours a week.
The men are suing for unpaid overtime as well as other damages.
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The suit also alleges that Gokce himself was aware of the situation.
"When Gokce was present at the Restaurants, he personally supervised Plaintiffs’ work," the suit says.
"Gokce had an aggressive managerial style, frequently cursing at Plaintiffs and blaming them for other employees’ mistakes," it adds.