‘Salt Bae’ Nusret Gökçe accused of wage theft

29 August, 2019 by
Hospitality Magazine

Nusret Gökçe, most commonly known as Salt Bae, shot to fame in 2017 when he posted a video of his now-iconic salting technique, which sees the butcher/chef/restaurateur dramatically carve a piece of meat and sprinkle salt down his arm.

After the video went viral, Gökçe used his new-found fame to expand his Nusr-et Steakhouse brand, opening a number of restaurants across the globe from the United Arab Emirates to Greece and the US.

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While the novelty of eating meat seasoned with salt cascading from Gökçe’s arm has arguably worn off, he’s got more to worry about.

Gökçe is facing a collective lawsuit from employees at his Nusr-et Steakhouse in Miami for alleged underpayments and tip pooling.

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A judge gave the lawsuit the green light last week after former server Melissa Compere filed a suit against the restaurant in January, alleging the venue improperly disbursed an 18 per cent service charge that was automatically added to diners’ bills.

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Compere said the restaurant kept parts of the service charge instead of giving it to employees, who relied on tips and service charges to make minimum wage.

In Florida, restaurants are able to pay employees under the minimum wage if their hourly wage and overtime wage meet federal minimums.

Restaurants can also add on a service charge to bills, which can be used to recoup losses such as broken glassware. However, if there is a separate line for tips, all money must be given to workers who depend on them.

Compere alleges employees were required to give their nightly tips to a cashier who then shared it with non-tipped employees such as sushi chefs and management, meaning she and other employees were not making minimum wage.

Chief Judge K. Michael Moore has set a trial for 8 June 2020 and estimates there are as many as 200 other employees who were subjected to the same policies and procedures.

The employees are now able to join a lawsuit to sue Nusr-et Steakhouse.