The popular Pyramid Alehouse in Sodo will pay $450,000 to about 300 current and former workers who sued over unpaid wages, in a settlement approved Tuesday by a King County Superior Court judge.
Independent Brewers United, which owns the alehouse, will pay some workers as much as $9,800.
The lawsuit alleged the company did not pay overtime or accurately record work hours for employees, while deleting hours on workers’ time sheets — known as time shaving. Independent Brewers United did not comment on the allegations.
Jeremy Brotherton, whose four-year stint at Pyramid Alehouse as a prep worker and dishwasher ends Aug. 1, said he became part of the lawsuit after he began to notice his time sheet never accounted for overtime.
“For example, 87.32 hours only ended up being 79.3 hours,” he said. “I would lose on the overtime money so it would fallen even under that 80 hour mark.”
Time shaving is one of the more common forms of wage theft, said Danielle Alvarado, legal director of the Fair Work Center, a workers’ organization that provides practical and legal resources to employees. She said there’s often no realistic legal recourse for employees who are victims of time shaving, since legal fees cost more than the money owed.
“It’s difficult to find someone to be able to represent that person, just because the overall amount of money relative to the amount of time that’s going to go in is relatively small,” she said.
Danielle Wilson, who was a server at Pyramid Alehouse for five years, said she didn’t realize she was being paid less because she wasn’t expecting to make a lot of money in the first place.
“It takes someone like a host or a busser who gets that regular pay to see something’s wrong,” she said. “You get taxed so heavily on your tips, you’re not seeing that increase.”
While the lawsuit against Independent Brewers United was initially filed to reimburse workers for unpaid wages, the lawsuit also alleged the company didn’t provide meal or rest breaks. The alehouse, which is near T-Mobile Park, saw heavy traffic during game days and concerts, and employees said it was impossible to take a break during those days.
“A lot of times people don’t know that something happening at their job might be illegal,” Alvarado said. “They’re like, ‘this is really inconvenient or frustrating.’”
Along with the settlement, Pyramid Alehouse will be required to train its workers on basic employment rights, like knowing when they’re on the clock, according to the settlement document.
“I think that’s the issue within the service industry period,” Wilson said. “There are laws that are being broken on a regular basis … it’s just been known as an industry norm, and just because it’s a norm doesn’t make it okay.”
Wage-and-hour class-action suits might not be common for long, according to Toby Marshall, lead attorney in the lawsuit. Over the last five years, service-based companies have seen an extensive increase in arbitration clauses — some put theirs in job applications, requiring potential employees to promise they won’t sue, he said.
“It strips the everyday worker of very basic rights to a jury trial,” he said. “There won’t be a lot of recourse if this continues.”
This story, published July 31, 2019, was updated Aug. 1 to clarify that the lawsuit was resolved in a settlement, not a ruling by the judge.