Tipped employees of Turtle Bay Resort have won a $526,000 settlement from the North Shore hotel over gratuities divided between workers and the company unbeknownst to customers.
The settlement is a result of a lawsuit filed in January 2009 that claimed Turtle Bay violated a fairly new state law requiring hotels and restaurants to distribute service charges for food or beverage service entirely to employees, or clearly tell customers if any portion of service charges is retained by management.
Brandee Faria, a local attorney with Perkin & Faria representing Turtle Bay employees, said the case was the first to be resolved of several filed over the last couple of years against Hawaii hotels .
The settlement covers 130 workers employed at the hotel between January 2005 and January 2009. The settlement amount is based on how many hours each employee worked during the period, which varies widely. If the settlement hypothetically were equally shared, it amounts to $4,046 per employee. All attorney’s fees and costs were paid by Turtle Bay on top of the settlement amount.
Settlement checks were mailed out recently. The settlement was approved last month, after being proposed in March.
A Turtle Bay representative could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The lawsuit was one of at least nine similar cases filed against major hotel companies in Hawaii attempting to recover gratuities for employees under a law passed by the Legislature in 2000 that sought to strengthen wage and hour protection for workers. Some of the cases seek compensation on behalf of consumers for gratuities they thought they had paid to service staff.
In one case against the Four Seasons hotels on Maui and the Big Island, the Hawaii Supreme Court in March ruled that hotel and restaurant employees may sue under the law even though the hotel argued the law is categorized as a consumer-protection statute.