The Willows Inn, a nationally acclaimed restaurant on Lummi Island in Washington that has been accused of underpaying its employees, has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit over wage theft accusations.
As part of the preliminary settlement, management at The Willows Inn has not admitted to any wrongdoing, The Seattle Times reported. The two employees who filed the lawsuit are bound by a non-disclosure agreement from discussing the dispute.
But in the lawsuit filed in Whatcom County Superior Court in 2017, the plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged that The Willows Inn had violated state labor and wage laws including the withholding of tips and overtime pay, and in some cases, that it did not pay employees at all for shifts worked.
For some employees, including those who cook, clean and service The Willows Inn, all the hours worked amounted to “less than minimum wage,” according to the suit.
Under the settlement, the 99 non-supervisory employees identified as members of the class-action suit will recover about 75% of the unpaid wage claims, which the parties estimate will total $600,000.
In a phone interview with the newspaper, restaurant chef and owner Blaine Wetzel denied the allegations, but said his attorneys advised him to settle or risk a long court battle that would ultimately cost much more than $600,000 in legal fees.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment.
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