SAN DIEGO (CN) - Hyatt Hotels and the Manchester Financial Group steal workers' tips to cover "glass breakage," whether employees have broken any glasses or not, a class action claims in Superior Court.
Former room service delivery worker Leonardo Acosta sued Host Hotels and Resorts, Manchester Financial Group and Hyatt Hotels Corp.
Acosta worked for the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego until January 2012. He seeks compensatory and exemplary damages for unfair competition, conversion and money had and received.
According to Acosta, Manchester Financial laid down employment policies at the Manchester Grand Hyatt that are still followed, even though the hotel was sold to Host Hotels in 2010.
Since exiting the San Diego hotel scene, Manchester owner Doug Manchester has purchased both the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times, combining the two struggling newspapers into the dominant daily in the city and county of San Diego.
Acosta claims that under policies Manchester began in 2003, the hotel pools the tips of its room service delivery staff and withholds a fixed percentage of them.
"Hyatt and the other defendants maintain that the monies are withheld pursuant to Hyatt's policy of reimbursing themselves for purported 'glass breakage.' The same percentage of gratuities was withheld from all room service delivery workers in plaintiffs' tip pool, without regard to the amount of breakage, if any, during any pay period. The same percentage of gratuities was withheld from all room service delivery workers in plaintiffs' tip pool, without regard to whether any purported breakage was caused by any dishonest or willful act, or by the gross negligence of any employee ... [and] without regard to the individual, if any, responsible for the alleged breakage," Acosta claims.
Acosta claim that the withholdings, which have been standard policy since at least 2003, violate California labor law.
"Defendants violated the 'unlawful' prong of the unfair competition law by violating California's labor code ... which provides that 'no employer or agent shall take or receive any gratuity or part thereof that is paid, given to or left for an employee. Defendants also violated the 'unlawful' prong of the unfair competition law by violating California Industrial Wage Order ... which provides that 'no employer shall make any deduction from the wage or require reimbursement from any employee for any cash shortage, breakage or loss of equipment, unless it can be shown that the shortage, breakage or loss is caused by a dishonest or willful act, or by the gross negligence of the employee," Acosta says in the complaint.
He seeks restitution, compensatory and exemplary damages, and injunctions to keep the hoteliers from withholding tips from workers.
Manchester has been a heavy hitter for years in San Diego. Circulation at the Union-Tribune has dipped by 4 percent since he took over the paper in 2011.
According to a KPBS report , some believe the neophyte publishing magnate uses the papers to wage a personal propaganda war to further his political beliefs and real estate development interests.
"Listen, we're interested in serving everybody in San Diego because we love the city," Manchester told KPBS. He added: "I've always said under Ronald Reagan, we had Steve Jobs, we had Johnny Cash and we had Bob Hope and under Obama, we have no cash, no jobs and no hope."
Manchester said he's aware that readers are canceling subscriptions, but claims circulation is up. Reuters recently reported that he and the publisher of the Orange County Register want to acquire the entire Tribune stable - including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune - when Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, which happened Monday.
Acosta is represented by David Bower with Faruqi & Faruqi in Los Angeles.
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