The owners of Chef Point restaurant, a popular Watauga eatery housed in an expanded gas station, and nine former employees have settled a federal lawsuit in which the employees said they were not paid what was owed them.
The ex-employees’ attorney, Drew Herrmann, said he could not disclose the amount of the settlement but said that it contained no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the owners.
The defendants, restaurant co-owners Franson and Hope Nwaeze and Paula Merrell, could not be reached to comment Friday.
The suit said the owners violated various provisions of the federal Fair Wage Standards Act and did not fulfill oral contracts related to compensation.
The former employees claimed that Chef Point’s owners clocked them out while they were still working and refused to pay them overtime when they worked more than 40 hours a week. The owners also required employees to attend events on behalf of the restaurant, attend training sessions and decorate the store for the holidays, none of which they compensated for, the lawsuit said.
When a customer returned food without paying or there was a cash register shortage, employees were forced to cover those shortages out of their own pockets, the lawsuit stated.
Herrmann said he is suing other companies whose employees have made claims similar to what his clients said about Chef Point.
“It’s alarming to me — as a general matter — the number of tipped employees, whether servers or chauffeurs, that do not actually receive the full amount of the tips left by customers,” Herrmann said.
Chef Point, a restaurant that began inside a gas station, has received national attention for Franson Nwaeze’s cooking. It has been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and has been reviewed by numerous newspapers, including the Star-Telegram, USA Today and The New York Times.
A final judgment order dismissing the lawsuit was signed Tuesday in U.S. District Judge Terry Means’ court, according to court documents.
The attorney representing the restaurant owners, Jerry Murad Jr., declined to comment regarding the settlement agreement.