Rivers Casino Schenectady in New York Agrees to $5.5M Worker Settlement

Posted on: September 26, 2022, 09:22h. 

Last updated on: September 27, 2022, 05:38h.

The parent company of Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady in upstate New York is settling a class action lawsuit brought by its workers for about $5.5 million.

Rivers Casino Schenectady New York labor law
The staff at Rivers Casino Schenectady readies for the upstate New York casino’s grand opening on Feb. 8, 2017. A former cocktail server sued the casino earlier this year on allegations that she wasn’t properly paid for overtime work. (Image: Times Union)

In April, attorneys representing plaintiff Kendra Brown filed a class and collective action complaint against Rush Street Gaming, LLC, and Capital Region Gaming, LLC — collectively the owner and operator of Rivers Schenectady. Brown alleged that she and many other hourly-tipped colleagues haven’t been properly paid for their overtime work.

Brown was employed at Rivers Schenectady as a cocktail server. Brown served gamblers on the casino floor from April 2017 through December 2019.

During her time at Rivers, Brown claimed the casino didn’t adhere to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. Brown’s lawsuit alleges that the casino didn’t properly calculate overtime pay for her and other tipped hourly workers.

Filed in New York’s Northern District federal court, Rush Street and Brown finalized a class action settlement last week. The Chicago-based casino operator has agreed to pay the plaintiffs up to $5.5 million, including attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

The settlement affords potential class action participants 120 days to seek involvement in the suit with the settlement administrator, a third-party overseer selected by the parties.

Tipping Point

New York law allows hospitality employers of hourly, tipped workers to take a credit toward the basic minimum hourly wage.

For example, New York’s statewide minimum wage is currently $13.20. But a casino, considered a hospitality employer, can take a $2.20 per hour tip credit to pay a cocktail server an hourly cash wage of just $11.

Those tip credits also apply to overtime work and calculating the 1.5x base bay. Brown and her attorneys argued that Rivers Casino Schenectady improperly computed her overtime rate.

On her paycheck for the week of May 11, 2017, through May 18, 2017, Plaintiff worked 0.88 hours of overtime, and was paid for that time $11.3723 per hour. During that period, New York law provided that workers in her region were owed a minimum wage of $9.70 per hour and employers were permitted to assert a tip credit of no more than $1.60 per hour. Thus, Defendants were required to pay Plaintiff at least $12.95 per hour for overtime, as one-and-a-half times the statutory minimum rate of $9.70 is $14.55, less the tip credit of $1.60, resulting in a total of $12.95.”

Brown’s attorneys said she was paid under the same pay structure for hours over 40 worked in both 2018 and 2019.

Plaintiff Not Getting Rich

The Rush Street class action settlement allows hourly tipped workers who believe they were underpaid to recoup their financial shortcomings. Rivers currently employs more than 850 workers.

Though Brown led the legal fight, she won’t be flushing her bank account with the settlement. The agreement limits her compensation to $7,500. Though that’s considerably more than she allegedly wasn’t paid through overtime work, the payment amount is for Brown’s “efforts to pursue the claims raised in this Litigation on behalf of the Settlement Class,” the agreement explains.

Attorneys stand to collect much more money from the settlement fund. The arrangement allows lawyers to recoup up to $1.925 million in fees.