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Jose Pepper’s agrees to $1.75 million settlement with its servers over minimum wage and overtime

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Patrons enter the Jose Pepper's restaurant on Johnson Drive in Mission, Kansas.

Court documents state that the average payment per server will amount to about $568.

A federal judge has approved a $1.75 million settlement to resolve claims by servers at Jose Pepper’s that they were denied minimum wage and overtime, and were required to work before clocking in.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Angel Mitchell had previously rejected the settlement, saying she didn’t have enough information to evaluate whether the settlement adequately compensated the servers.

But on Thursday she said her concerns had been addressed and granted preliminary approval to the settlement.

The settlement calls for the plaintiffs’ attorneys to receive a third of the money, leaving about $1.14 million for eligible servers. Court documents state that the average payment per server will come to about $568.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought in July 2020 by a server in the Jose Pepper’s restaurant in Belton, Missouri. The server, Kira Florece, sued on behalf of herself and other servers, alleging Jose Pepper’s violated federal and state labor laws.

Florece claimed servers were allowed to work overtime only if they didn’t clock in, asked to report overtime under other employees’ names and had their reported overtime hours removed from the timekeeping system.

She also claimed servers were asked to work only for tips during the COVID-19 pandemic, asked to spend more than 20% of their working time on non-tipped work and required to share tips with non-tipped workers.

Jose Pepper’s denied the allegations and said its payroll data showed that servers recorded and received overtime pay.

Jose Pepper’s operates nine restaurants in Kansas and four in Missouri. The popular Mexican-American restaurant chain was founded by Ed Gieselman in 1988 as a single restaurant in Overland Park. It has since grown to include locations throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, Topeka and Wichita.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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