The Look in Brief

Guy Fieri’s Pigeon Forge restaurant accused of violating federal labor law

By: - July 21, 2022 7:00 am
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri's Pigeon Forge restaurant is accused of violating federal labor law. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Discovery)

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Pigeon Forge restaurant is accused of violating federal labor law. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Discovery)

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s new restaurant in Pigeon Forge is in legal hot water, accused of cheating wait staff and violating federal labor law.

A proposed “collective action” lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court against Downtown Flavortown, a new Fieri eater that opened in March on Teaster Lane in the tourism mecca of Pigeon Forge.

Fieri, a celebrity chef who calls himself the “Mayor of Flavortown” and host of the popular Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has a huge network of restaurants and food services across the United States. In addition to the Pigeon Forge restaurant at issue in the lawsuit, Fieri and his partners have launched a Chicken Guy eatery in downtown Nashville and operates at least three Flavortown Kitchens delivery food services in Middle Tennessee.

Kevin Armstrong, a Sevier County resident, says in the U.S. District Court lawsuit that he was hired as a waiter at Downtown Flavortown in mid-February and worked at the eatery through April 1.

Armstrong attorney Joe Leniski Jr. contends in the lawsuit Downtown Flavortown and its owners are knowingly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring “tipped employees” to perform “non tipped side work.”

Under the labor law cited in the litigation, employers are allowed to pay employees who receive tips from customers less than the federally-required minimum wage and take a “tip credit” for doing so. But the law forbids employers from requiring that “tipped employees” perform “non-tipped side work,” jobs that must be paid at or above the minimum wage rate.

Armstrong’s lawsuit alleges Downtown Flavortown “maintained a policy and practice whereby tipped employees were required to spend a substantial amount of time performing non-tip producing side work, including but not limited to, general cleaning of the restaurant, preparing food for customers, refilling condiments, and clearing tables.”

“(The restaurant) paid tipped employees for work at or below the reduced tip credit

minimum wage rate,” the lawsuit stated. “The duties that (Downtown Flavortown) required tipped employees to perform are duties that are customarily assigned to ‘back-of-house’ employees in other restaurants, who typically receive at least the full applicable minimum wage rate,” the lawsuit stated.

The restaurant’s management company did not immediately respond to the lawsuit. The litigation seeks back pay for all current and former tipped employees and changes in the restaurant’s pay policies.

downtown flavortown suit

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Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield is an investigative journalist with more than 33 years of experience, specializing in legal affairs, policing, public corruption, environmental crime and civil rights violations. Her journalism has been honored as some of the best in the nation, earning recognition from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards, the Green Eyeshade Awards, the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Managing Editors Association, the First Amendment Center and many other industry organizations. Her work has led to criminal charges against wrongdoers, changes in state law and citations in legal opinions and journals. She was married to the love of her life for 28 years and is now a widow and proud mother of two successful children of good character and work ethic.