Compere first filed an EEOC complaint in January 2019, as reported by the Miami New Times. Then in December she filed the sex discrimination lawsuit. Compere, who worked as a server for 10 years at various restaurants before applying to work at Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Miami, said she interviewed with Salt Bae himself, according to her lawsuit. Though she applied to be a server, he said, per the filing, that he “saw her as a food runner,” someone who brings the food to the table but doesn’t wait on customers, and she accepted the position in the hopes of being promoted to server. From the complaint:
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For months, managers at Nusr-et asked Salt Bae to promote Compere to a server because she was clearly highly qualified compared to many other servers. Salt Bae would tell them that he only "saw her as a runner" and denied the request. Approximately five months after the restaurant opened, Compere was finally promoted to the position of a full-time server. As a server, Compere was able to make considerably more money that she did as a cocktail waitress or as a food runner. However, Compere was still treated differently than the male servers.
When Salt Bae came to Miami and worked at the restaurant, Compere was frequently forced give up her dinner shifts and work the lunch shifts so she would not be seen by Salt Bae. Or, Compere was forced to give up her server shifts all together and was made to work as a cocktail waitress in order to hide the fact that Compere was a server. When Compere worked lunch shifts as a server or worked as a cocktail waitress, she earned considerably less money.
"It’s important for people to file these types of claims on gender discrimination because there is no reason male and females alike can’t do these jobs equally," Compere’s lawyer, Miami-based attorney Lowell Kuvin, said. "The idea is you can't make sex a part of your motif and marketing identity. Women are breadwinners just as much as men are breadwinners. It’s about equality."Kuvin’s firm is also representing Compere, as well as more than 20 other plaintiffs, in a collective-action lawsuit filed against Salt Bae’s Miami restaurant in January 2019. The lawsuit said Salt Bae’s business failed to pay minimum wage and overtime under FLSA. The case, Kuvin told VICE, is currently in discovery.Another FLSA lawsuit was filed against Salt Bae and his business in January 2019 in New York; the suit also said the famous chef’s steakhouse failed to pay sufficient minimum wage and overtime. Plaintiff Mustafa Fteja, who worked as waiter at Salt Bae’s midtown steakhouse from January to December 2018, said that Gökçe was regularly in the restaurant, “interacting with customers and employees, instructing employees what to do, has the authority to hire and fire employees, change their pay and pay schedules, and he keeps records regarding the employees’ hours worked and compensation.” The complaint said:
The decision to not hire Compere as a server, or to force her to work inferior shifts or job positions, was based upon Compere's sex.
Fteja also said he faced retaliation for asking about his tips: “Defendants fired Plaintiff Fteja for complaining about them keeping some of his tips […] Because he complained about them retaining some of his tips, Defendants gave Plaintiff Fteja less tips than the waiters who did not complain about Defendants retaining tips.”Christy Reuter of Meister Seeling and Fein, the Nusret company’s U.S. counsel, told VICE, “The company denies any wrongdoing with respect to the employment and labor related claims,” and that the New York class-action case is pending final settlement. (The plaintiffs' lawyers did not respond to VICE’s requests for comment.)The blanket denial is odd considering that this past November, Gökçe, facing charges from the NLRB that he had fired four waiters from his midtown steakhouse for asking about their tips, agreed to a reported $230,000 settlement. The New York Daily News reported that the workers “claimed management never told them how much was collected in tips. Instead, they’d get weekly checks of around $2,000 to $2,500, which they were told included gratuities.” The document that showed the tip distribution breakdown, the report said, was deemed confidential by management.
Defendants paid Plaintiff Fteja below the minimum wage because, upon information and belief, he is a tipped employee and they were availing themselves of the tip credit: the difference between the statutory minimum wage and the rate tipped employees may be paid, provided certain conditions are met. This is often referred to as the “tipped minimum wage.” Defendants never informed Plaintiff Fteja or other waiters that they are taking a tip credit: they did not inform them of this verbally or on any wage statement. Plaintiff Fteja pooled his tips with other waiters, bartenders, baristas, host, hostess, runners, bus boys, sommelier, sushi makers and managers (“Tip Pool”).