Last November, waitress Suzanne Parratt was fired from her job at midtown joint Pig N Whistle after three customers dined-and-dashed on a $96 meal, and her manager demanded that she pay for it. Paratt, 31, has now filed a complaint against her former bosses and the corporate entity that owns the Pig N Whistle, both over her wrongful termination and the wage practices of the business: "Primarily I would like to see less violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act," Parratt told us.

"There’s a lot of people who work in the industry who are undocumented and they really feel like they don’t have a voice even though they do have rights, regardless of their immigration status, according to the FLSA," she told us from her new home in Philadelphia. "Because there are so many of those workers, employers take advantage of it. I feel that some employers are very predatory in that way, because they know that some people are backed into a corner." (You may peruse her lawsuit in full below.)

Parratt was working a double shift on Nov. 19th when three men walked out on their $96 tab (which was all drinks). Parratt told us at the time that there was a "culture of fear" and bullying from management, especially around the issue of dining-and-dashing. She told her manager, Eugene Wilson, about the walkout, and he later informed her that she and her two coworkers who were also working that night had to pay for the bill. Parratt refused, and was fired (Pig N Whistle initially refused to acknowledge her employment status when we spoke to Wilson in November; follow-up calls in recent days have also gone unreturned).

Parratt's lawsuit contends that an employer is not permitted to deduct from an employees' wages for something of this nature, and it is also illegal to fire someone because they object to such a practice. But the suit also argues that the "official" policies of the company should nullify its ability to claim "tip credit" from their minimum wage obligations. Parratt had been paid $5 an hour plus tips while working there: "That’s the minimum that they’re allowed to pay you if you’re a tipped employee [in NY state]," she said. "Most employers that I’m aware of will not pay more than the minimum."

"It's not simply that they can't take the money that they take from Ms. Parratt or any other server, but that by doing so, it's our position that they're forfeiting the tip credit that restaurants are allowed to use in lieu of the minimum wage," attorney Josh Parkhurst explained. "The law requires that if you take the tip credit and pay less than the $7.25 per hour required under federal law, you have to allow those workers to keep all their tips.

"And what they're doing is saying if there is any loss incurred by the restaurant from a walk-off or from a returned order, you have to then pay it back out of your tips. So what that means is that they have to pay not just the money they are taking, but they owe the full minimum wage to their workers if they're going to do that."

Parkhurst intends to file a class action lawsuit, but it is so far unclear how many other servers will join. "There is interest, but people who work there are concerned they will lose their jobs if they join—the restaurant's not allowed to do that, but I understand the fear they would do that," Parkhurst adds.

Parratt is hopeful others will come forward: "I feel like that the issues I faced are systemic, they’re very common, and I feel that was confirmed when I went public with my issue," she said, referring to both the original Gothamist article as well as several Reddit threads she's made on the topic. "I heard so many similar stories from other people that have gone through similar issues or are still dealing with it, and just don’t really feel like they have a voice."

"We're bringing this to ensure that both for Ms. Parrat and for other workers that when they work for their wages they get to keep them," Parkhurst added. "All too often restaurateurs require their workers to bear the risk of loss of the restaurant. That's illegal."

Suzanne Parratt Complaint

Additional reporting by John Del Signore.