A company that operates Mo’s Seafood restaurants has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a claim by 34 former workers that the restaurant chain underpaid them.
The seafood company did not admit to liability under the terms of the settlement of the suit, first filed in 2015 in U.S. District Court for Maryland against six restaurants operated by Mo's Fisherman Exchange Inc. and their owner Mohammed Manocheh.
The workers — waiters and kitchen staff — alleged minimum wage and overtime violations and unlawful deductions from their tips in violation of federal and state wage and hour law.
The lawsuit, certified as a collective action, was on the verge of a trial when the parties agreed to settle, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said. The workers will get money either in payments over two years or in a lump sum based on the hours they worked and the length of their employment, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.
Each worker will get an average of $12,800, but the sums will vary based on how many hours and how long the workers were employed at a Mo’s restaurant, said Jessie Weber, an attorney with Brown, Goldstein & Levy, which filed the suit along with the nonprofit Public Justice Center.
“It’s a significant amount of money for people who made not much more than that in the course of a year,” Weber said. “We hope the settlement serves as a message to Mo’s and to others out there that there is a real price tag to not paying their workers. We hope there is a deterrent effect.”
Andrew Dansicker, Mo’s attorney, said the case was settled because of the costs.
"The cost of having a three- to six-week trial plus appeals would have been enormous, and the settlement was for a fraction of what the potential liability could have been," he said.
He declined to comment on how the payments will be made, a lump sum or in installments.
“I’m pleased that we will receive some justice and most of the back wages that we are owed,” said Erick Rivera, former employee and plaintiff, in a statement. “All restaurants should pay their workers in accordance with the law, including all the overtime so many of us work hard to earn. Workers, particularly those who have come from other countries, should not be intimidated and should report wrongdoing for the good of everyone.”
The restaurant company now operates four restaurants in Baltimore’s Little Italy, Eastpoint, Towson and White Marsh.