By Joyce Lupiani
ATLANTA (WANF) — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the owner of the popular plant-based Atlanta restaurant “Slutty Vegan,” Aisha “Pinky” Cole by a former employee who claims she and others were not paid minimum and overtime wages while working for Bar Vegan. Bar Vegan co-owners Aaron Mattison and Jason Crain, president of Slutty Vegan, are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
Morgan Georgia claims that she was a “tipped employee” in the lawsuit but Bar Vegan and its owners did not treat her as such.
Tipped employees, who are paid less than the $7.25 federal minimum wage, are supposed to be allowed to keep their tips unless there is a “valid tip-pooling arrangement” with other tipped employees (non-tipped employees are not eligible).
According to the lawsuit, Bar Vegan required Georgia and other tipped employees to give up 25% of their tips for every shift worked to the “House.” When Georgia and other tipped employees asked about the tips, they were told that the tips were given to the bar backs or were used to purchase glassware and bar tools for the restaurant.
The lawsuit also claims that when the tipped employees continued asking about the tips, they were told “25% of the tips go to the house. That is our policy. If you don’t like it, find another place to work.”
Georgia worked for Bar Vegan, which is located inside Ponce City market, as a bartender from March 2020 until March 2022. She reportedly worked approximately 25 to 30 hours per week. The lawsuit is demanding that Georgia and other employees who worked similar hours and were paid $2.13 per hour to be paid the full minimum wage (i.e. $7.25 per hour) for all hours worked because Bar Vegan and its owners retained their tips for “unlawful purposes.”
Additionally, the lawsuit is demanding damages in an amount double the unpaid wages and attorney fees. They are also requesting a jury trial.
The lawsuit does not specify just how much money it is believed that Bar Vegan and its owners kept from the tips.
Pinky Cole got her start in 2018 after selling her first vegan burgers through a delivery app. She then opened a food truck, followed by the first brick-and-mortar store in 2019. There are now multiple locations in Georgia.
Cole also recently published a cookbook titled “Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind.”
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