Pancake houses must pay $245K in wage dispute

Sophia's House of Pancakes workers are owed back pay and overtime

A file photo of Sophia's House of Pancakes.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A federal judge has ruled that a chain of pancake restaurants in southwest Michigan must pay $245,000 to workers who said they were shorted on wages and tips.

According to court records, the money will be divided among more than 115 employees of Sophia’s House of Pancakes in Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor. Some workers will receive upwards of $5,000 or $6,000. One will get nearly $9,500.

In 2014, a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor alleged the workers were being paid less than minimum wage, weren’t being paid for overtime and that the restaurants weren’t accurately tracking their hours. Servers were also made to forfeit $2 from their tips.

In some cases, the suit alleged, workers who cooperated with an investigation into the wrongdoing were punished by being given fewer tables to wait on and therefore fewer tips. In one case, the suit said, a worker was fired for cooperating.

According to the court records filed this week, the employee who was fired will get more than $3,600 in addition to owed wages.

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell also ordered the restaurant to stop illegal practices.

John Filis, a Sophia’s owner who was named in the suit, posted an apology to servers and customers on Facebook on Feb. 18, saying he felt “guilty” about the situation.

However, he said the business “never intentionally avoided paying our associates.”

“The two dollars that were required to be paid by our waitresses were from their tips and that money went to the bussers,” Filis wrote. “This was changed to meet the requirements of the Department of Labor and to comply with their laws.”

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