The Willows Inn — Lummi Island’s nationally famend wonderful eating institution — has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit for alleged wage theft. Within the lawsuit, filed in 2017, former staff accused Willows Inn head chef/co-owner Blaine Wetzel and administration for “failing to pay minimal wage for all work carried out, extra time wages, and to offer or pay for relaxation and meal breaks underneath Washington regulation.” A settlement was agreed upon by each events in October 2020.
The lawsuit — which the Seattle Instances first reported — is said to a labor violation discover the restaurant acquired across the identical time, roughly 4 years in the past. On the time, the Willows Inn doled out $149,000 in unpaid wages and damages to 19 kitchen employees members, following a Division of Labor (DOL) investigation. In its report from 2017, the Labor Division claimed Willows Inn “violated the Truthful Labor Requirements Act by failing to pay extra time and minimal wage to its staff.”
In keeping with the 2017 DOL report, the Willows Inn violated labor legal guidelines by having its “phases” — culinary interns who usually work without cost in fine-dining eating places — work for as many as 14 hours a day, with no extra time, and day charges as little as $50. In response, the restaurant nixed its staging program, however denied any wrongdoing — and continues to push again on the allegations at this time.
“After over three years of attorneys defending us in opposition to these claims, we have been moved to settle on account of present and mounting authorized charges,” Wetzel informed Eater Seattle, emphasizing that the allegations “are under no circumstances correct.” He added that the wording used within the lawsuit “is a instrument that this specialised regulation agency makes use of to vastly exacerbate a quotation we acquired from 2016.”
Wetzel additionally acknowledged that the restaurant has not allowed any “staigiers” or “unaccredited interns” since receiving the labor division’s quotation in 2016 and presently follows all Washington State wage and labor legal guidelines.
The Seattle Instances studies that 99 non-supervisory staff have been recognized as members of the class-action lawsuit, and can obtain a portion of the settlement sum, recovering about 75 % of misplaced wages. Underneath the phrases of the settlement, it’s documented that Wetzel and the defendants will not be admitting to any wrongdoing, and the previous staff who initially filed the go well with are certain by a non-disclosure provision.
After COVID measures delayed its common annual opening plan in March 2020, the Willows Inn resumed service in a restricted capability final summer time. As a seasonal operation, it’s presently closed for the winter.
Eater Seattle reached out to the lawyer representing the plaintiffs within the lawsuit and can replace this text as extra information is offered.

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