Slutty Vegan owner sued by ex-employee over alleged unpaid wages

The owner of a popular Atlanta vegan restaurant chain is facing a lawsuit over alleged unpaid wages at one of her businesses.

A former employee at Slutty Vegan CEO Pinky Cole's Bar Vegan hotspot in Ponce City Market claims the restaurant withheld a portion of her tips while paying her less than the federal minimum wage, according to the lawsuit.

Morgan Georgia says she was an employee at Bar Vegan for over two years and says that the restaurant paid tipped employees $2.13 an hour while requiring them give up 25% of their tips. 

"The allegations are and what our clients say is that Bar Vegan was keeping a large percentage of tips to cover operational costs in the restaurants," said attorney Travis Foust, who represents Georgia and other former employees.

While state law and federal guidelines allow businesses to pay tipped employees that hourly wage, they are required to have the maximum tip credit.

In December, Georgia filed a collective-action lawsuit against the bar, Cole and the other owners

"It’s the type of case we have a lot of those here…and it’s based off of the tip credit regulations," said attorney Travis Foust, who represents Georgia and other former employees.

If the allegations are true, it would be a violation of the Fair Labor and Standards Act, which Foust says requires restaurants to allow employees to keep 100% of their tips if they are being paid less than minimum wage.  

"Tips are clearly the crucial part of their compensation, people can’t live off of $2.13 an hour, people can’t pay their bills on $2.13 an hour, which is why the regulations only allow that to happen if they’re allowed to keep 100% of the tips," said Foust. 

The co-owners are denying virtually all the claims in that complaint. 

Lawyers for the owners of Bar Vegan, in a court document in response to the lawsuit, admit Georgia was treated as a tipped employee, but say employees "were paid compensation beyond that to which they were entitled while employed by Bar Vegan, such additional compensation would satisfy, in whole or in part, any alleged claim for unpaid minimum wages and/or overtime or other monetary relief."

The employees are seeking damages in the form of attorneys fees and money they earned during hours they worked. 

Foust says he is encouraging other employees who worked at the restaurant in the last three years to reach out.

The case will go into the discovery phase now that a response has been filed.