ST. LOUIS — According to www.stltoday.com, a wage dispute against Clayton Car Wash — a 35-year-old institution — was settled in favor of the plaintiff.
Robert Pace began working at the carwash in September 2011 just after he had been released from prison after a six-year stint for involuntary manslaughter, the article continued.
Over the next five years, Pace worked up the chain and ended up in the position where he would hand the customer the keys and do a final quality check with the customer, the article noted, but he continued to make what the washers made: $7.10 an hour plus tips.
In June 2016, he quit over a wage dispute, in which he claimed he had been shorted a day, but his boss insisted he had not come to work on the day in question, the article added.
In April 2018, he was listening to the radio when he heard an advertisement for a law firm that represented people with wage issues, and after thinking about it, he decided he had one, the article stated.
The issue involved tips at the carwash: all tips went into a jar, and even if a customer paid by credit card, he or she would write the amount down on the receipt, and the counterman would give him or her cash to put in the jar, the article noted.
At the end of the day, the boss would take the jar into the back office and empty it, and at the end of the week, the boss would divide the week’s tip money among the employees — usually 12 or 13 — depending on how many days each had worked that week, the article continued.
However, Pace, who dealt with customers at the end of the line, had a rough idea of how much they were collecting and was therefore convinced that he and his colleagues were being shortchanged, the article stated.
He contacted two of his old colleagues, and the three of them went to see the lawyers and signed on as clients, the article noted.
The attorneys filed three separate lawsuits against Clayton Car Wash, the first of which went to court last month, the article continued.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a plaintiff can go back no more than three years from the date he or she files a lawsuit, so Pace was only able to contend for about two years’ worth of tips, and unlike in a typical civil case, the lawyers would not take a percentage of the clients’ award if they won but rather could seek legal fees, the article reported.
Pace and his former colleagues described the clientele of the carwash as upscale people with fancy cars and said the average tip was probably $5 to $10, the article noted.
Pace provided his tax returns to show how much he received in tips, and he had records from the carwash to show that the carwash washed about 25,000 cars a year during the period in question, the article noted.
Richard Rutledge, owner of the carwash, testified that he had not shorted the workers, but he had no records, claiming he just handed out tips the way it had always been done, the article stated.
In closing, Pace’s lawyer challenged the jurors to do two math problems: one assuming the average tip was $10 — figuring the total, dividing it by 13 to show how much Pace should have received and subtracting the amount from his tax returns — and one assuming the total was $5, the article explained.
The jury ruled in favor of Pace, using the $10 figure, and since the law allows the jury to double the award, they did so, awarding Pace $18,522, the article stated.
“One of the jurors told me they wished they could have given me more,” Pace said.
Clayton Car Wash reported that management had now changed its policies on the tip jar and was keeping records, the article concluded.
Read the original story here.