BJ Roosters settles second wage lawsuit for $92K

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Go-go gay Atlanta bar BJ Roosters will pay a former bartender and his attorneys nearly $92,000 to settle a federal lawsuit over unpaid wages, bringing the amount the bar has lost recently in labor lawsuits to $200,000.

The case against Jobo's, Inc. – the corporate parent of BJ Roosters – was settled on Wednesday, less than three weeks after the bar lost a similar federal lawsuit over unpaid wages.

In the wake of losing the earlier case in November, the bar agreed this week to pay Gary Drews, a bartender there from February 2006 to September 2014, a total of $66,694 to settle his lawsuit. Drews sued in November 2014 claiming federal labor violations and unpaid wages. The bar also agreed to pay attorneys for Drews some $25,223.03 in fees – bringing the total payout in the case to $91,917.03.

The settlement, filed Wednesday, indicates that Drews could have won a similar amount if the case went to trial.

Undersigned counsel submit that this agreement is reasonable in both its terms and amounts. The Agreement affords Plaintiff damages of $66,694, which represents 100% of the damages he claims for due but unpaid minimum wages, and a like amount as liquidated damages. This amount provides Plaintiff with the full amount he could receive if he took this matter to trial.

In his lawsuit, Drews alleged that his compensation was solely tips, that he wasn't paid a minimum wage or overtime, and that he had to pay 20 percent of the tips he earned back to the bar. The lawsuit also alleged that Drews was required to repay cash drawer shortages and had to pay a $5 cleaning fee at the end of each night shift he worked.

Drews also claimed in the lawsuit that the bar reduced his hours in February 2014, a move that cost him the health insurance provided by the business. But BJ's did not provide him with written notification as required by law, according to the lawsuit. 

In court filings, the bar said it hadn't “engaged in wrongful acts” and denied the allegations in Drews' lawsuit.

With the settlement, Drews said he's pleased the case is resolved. 

“I'm glad justice was served,” Drews says. “It sends a message to employers that you just can't take advantage of your employees and discard them like they are nothing. It's a sign that Karma does exist and it will come back and bite you. I'm glad this is over because it caused me so much stress and struggles, and I'm now able to move forward in my life knowing that justice does work.”

On Nov. 20, BJ Roosters lost a similar lawsuit from Richard Martin, a bartender and door attendant at the bar from May 2010 to July 2013. The bar lost the suit 10 days after a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Richard Story, who blistered the bar's conduct in his findings. Story said the bar's treatment of Martin was more than “merely negligent” but in fact “willful beyond dispute.”

Story awarded Martin $67,483.10 in unpaid wages and overtime, and damages. On Dec. 4, the bar agreed with Martin's attorneys to pay an additional $41,257.22 in legal fees – bringing the total awarded in the case to $108,740.32.

The total in unpaid wages, damages and attorneys fees in both cases is $200,657.35.

Bobby Hamill, co-owner of the bar, has not responded to previous requests for comment about the lawsuits.

Roxx, a gay-popular restuarant not far from BJ Roosters on Cheshire Bridge Road, has also come under scrutiny over wage issues. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the eatery owed about $10,000 in back pay to 33 employees. Owner Dean Chronopoulos agreed to pay the back wages, but then failed to do so, according to former employees and federal officials.

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