A New York federal judge approved a class-action suit against the 40/40 Club in Manhattan on Tuesday, after a lawyer for a group of waiters at the restaurant argued that the nightclub, which is co-owned by Jay-Z, had violated federal minimum-wage laws by withholding paychecks from the workers.
According to the suit, some former and current 40/40 employees claim they were not paid for overtime, were forced to pay for bottle breakages out of their own pockets and were told they had to pick up the tab on patrons who walked out without paying.
There are currently 20 workers involved in the suit, but their lawyer, Maimon Kirschenbaum, told MTV News that Manhattan Federal Judge Loretta Preska's ruling on Tuesday could open the door for potentially "hundreds" of others to join the suit.
"The basic claim is that our clients who worked at the 40/40 Club never received a paycheck while working there," Kirschenbaum said. "On a weekly basis, there was no paycheck, which is illegal per the minimum-wage law requirements. And a lot of the waiters said their paychecks were eaten up by taxes on their tips. But even if that were true, then you would expect them to get some accounting of that."
Kirschenbaum said the workers were also paid for significantly fewer hours than they worked and were not paid the required time-and-a-half wage for overtime.
"They also shifted the burden onto waiters, so if a bottle broke, the waiter would have to pay for the full price of bottle, which is not just unusual but completely illegal," said Kirschenbaum, who previously settled a similar suit for a "significant" amount against the B.B. King Blues Club in New York over waitstaff being forced to pay for bottle breakage.
"I've had 15 to 20 lawsuits against restaurants in Manhattan, and I can say confidently that the practices at the 40/40 Club are unusual and among the worst I've seen," Kirschenbaum said.
A spokesperson for the club, Ron Berkowitz, said the allegations are false and that the club will not settle the case. "They did nothing wrong, and we are moving forward with the case and putting it in the hands of the judge, because the club is innocent," said Berkowitz, who stressed that the suit is against the club, not co-owner Jay-Z.
The 40/40, which can be seen in Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" video from last year, has had other legal problems in the past. In January of 2007, royalty distributor BMI filed a federal lawsuit against the club for not paying appropriate royalties for songs that were played in the club.