ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's a popular hangout in Albuquerque, but employees at Kellys Brew Pub claim the business they worked for has been stealing from them.
When voters agreed to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque, attorneys said Kellys Brew Pub in Nob Hill forced its workers to pay for that wage hike themselves. Now, the workers have filed a class action lawsuit.
Kellys patio in Nob Hill is often packed with customers.
However, workers at the popular spot claim there's an illegal scheme going on behind closed doors.
"People are very disappointed when it's a local business that is well-liked in the community, but they're doing these kinds of things to their workers," explained Shane Youtz, Attorney for Plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Kellys and its owners, Dennis and Janice Bonfantine.
According to the suit, Kellys violated the city's Minimum Wage Act.
In 2013, tipped workers in Albuquerque were supposed to see a minimum wage hike from $2.13 an hour to $3.83 an hour, and eventually $5.25 an hour in 2015.
Youtz said Kellys made up that difference for the minimum wage increase illegally.
"They decided to force their employees to pay the difference, and that's not how it works," Youtz told KRQE News 13.
According to the lawsuit, "Defendants appeared to comply with the new law, but required servers to pay the house cash each shift."
After each shift, servers said they were forced to pay Kellys back two percent of their daily sales, plus $3.00 per hour they worked on the clock.
If a server didn't make enough that day, workers said they were forced to "Pay the difference from their wallets or their paychecks."
Employees also claim they were not paid for work 'off the clock,' such as rolling silverware, kitchen prep, and awaiting table assignments.
"Essentially, they stole money from their employees," said Youtz.
KRQE News 13 asked Youtz how much attorneys suspect was stolen from employees' wages from 2013 to the present.
"Given the size of the operation, given kind of the gross revenue that we know about, it's certainly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it may be higher than that," Youtz replied.
Kellys owner wouldn't go on camera with KRQE News 13. However, Dennis Bonfantine told News 13 over the phone that he had not seen the lawsuit, but it has no merit.
Bonfantine claims Kellys complied with the law, and the $3.00 per hour employees paid back to the business was for tip-sharing.
Youtz said attorneys have hard evidence to prove Kellys was stealing wages from workers.
"It takes some courage for people to stand up, especially against their employer," said Youtz. "It is not uncommon for employees to be afraid to go tell somebody about this, because guess what? They lose their job often times."
Kellys owner told News 13 he plans to retire, and is selling the Nob Hill business to Santa Fe Dining.
The current and former workers named in the lawsuit are filing for themselves and on behalf of employees who have worked at Kellys since 2013. They're asking for wages and tips paid back, and to be paid for time worked off the clock.
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