October 18, 2018: Last week, former employees of several restaurants owned and operated under the name of “Mo’s” or “Mo’s Seafood” settled a lawsuit for unpaid wages against the seafood chain and its owner for a total of $1 million.
All 34 plaintiffs were employed in six Mo’s restaurants – some as waitstaff and bartenders, and some in the kitchen – in the Baltimore region. In 2015, they sued their former employer for minimum wage and overtime violations under federal and state law. The workers alleged that Mo’s required them to work more than 40 hours per week without paying the required overtime premium rate; made improper deductions from their tips; and failed to pay them at all for certain weeks. Over the course of three years of litigation, the workers won several preliminary victories – including rulings affirming their right to proceed collectively, and a finding that Mo’s had violated the rights of its tipped workers – and were prepared to proceed to trial in the fall of 2018. Days before they were due in court, the parties reached an agreement.
“Workers are often scared to come forward and complain when an employer is stealing their wages,” commented one of the plaintiffs, Erick Rivera. “I am glad that we did, so that we could recover the wages we are owed, and hopefully help make sure that this restaurant and others pay their employees correctly.”
This case was brought by the Public Justice Center’s Workplace Justice Project, which partners with low-wage workers, community and labor organizations, and fellow advocates to promote justice in the workplace and in the courts. Through targeted litigation, the WJP enables individuals to stand up to wage theft, recover their unpaid wages, and send a message that bedrock wage laws cannot be violated with impunity.
“Everyone deserves an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, but too often, that’s not what people get,” said attorney Monisha Cherayil, who represented the plaintiffs. “We applaud our clients for taking a stand against their employer’s abuses, to win a measure of justice not only for themselves but for other Maryland workers.”
The workers are represented by Monisha Cherayil and Sally Dworak-Fisher of the Public Justice Center and Jessie Weber, Brooke Lierman, Neel Lalchandani, and Andrew Freeman of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, through the PJC’s Litigation Partnership.