China Grill, Prime One Twelve Latest to Be Sued by Ex-Employees for Tip Skimming

When we head to most South Beach restaurants, we customers expect to get fleeced:

$200 steaks, $50 sushi rolls, $15 mineral water. But the employees?

According to two lawsuits filed earlier this summer, fancy South Beach restaurants China Grill and Prime One Twelve are stiffing their own servers out of thousands in wages and tips.


lawsuits are just the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to

Miami restaurants accused of stealing from their servers, as New Times will explain in an investigative article out later today.

Lawyers for the restaurants could not be reached for comment, but both establishments have denied the accusations in


Two former waiters are suing China Grill for more than

$15,000 of damages each, according to court documents filed in U.S.

federal court in June. The lawsuit alleges the Washington Ave.

restaurant underpaid its waiters, forced them to share tips with

employees that shouldn't have received them, and skimmed those tips with

various fees.

Prime One Twelve stands accused of similarly

bilking a "food runner," according to another lawsuit filed in

Miami-Dade court in June. The suit alleges the Ocean Drive restaurant

"failed to pay... tipped employees for all of their actual work time in

violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act."

Dozens of such lawsuits are filed each year in Miami, "the worst city in the U.S. when it comes to wage theft," according to labor lawyer Lawrence McGuinness. But for the plaintiffs, even filing such complaints can be risky.

"I don't want to get blackballed," says one former China Grill waitress who asked to remain anonymous when contacted by New Times. "If you put my name out there, people are not going to want to hire me ever again."

Check our back this afternoon for more on TipGate 2010.

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