Restaurant sued over broken dish policy

A federal lawsuit over a South Carolina restaurant's policy of charging workers to pay up front to cover possible costs of broken glasses and dishes is headed to trial.

Jury selection is set next month in the case brought against Hyman Seafood Co. of Charleston.  One July 1, a federal judge ruled that the waiters, bartenders and bussers could proceed with their lawsuit that the restaurant violated minimum wage laws.

Under the policy, bartenders, servers and bussers were charged a few dollars each shift to offset any possible breakage costs.   But it's against federal law to extract business costs from employee wages.  About 160 current and former employees are part of the shift.

The company has acknowledged in court documents that the policy violated the federal Fair Labors Standards Act. A restaurant attorney says the issue is how much the 160 workers are entitled to receive.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Duffy said it's up to a jury to decide if the violation was willful, which could extend the statute of limitations for violations.