Nevada sports bar chain Bully's accused of labor law violations; suit says cooks owed overtime

Government And Institutions Associated Press

The largest and oldest sports bar chain in northern Nevada is being accused of violating federal labor laws by intentionally misclassifying cooks and kitchen managers as executives to avoid paying them overtime.

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Bully's Sports Bar & Grill allegedly forced kitchen staff to work more than 60 hours a week routinely without paying overtime for at least the last three years, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno.

Bully's deliberately underpaid Ernesto Amador and others "in order to save on its labor costs and increase profits" at the seven casino taverns it owns and operates in Reno, Sparks and Carson City, the lawsuit said.

The practice has been "knowing, intentional, widespread, repeated and willful," according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also says Bully's knew "the illegal conduct violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and/or showed reckless disregard for whether its actions complied" with the law.

Amador was paid $43,000 annually before he resigned his kitchen manager job at a south Reno Bully's in September, the lawsuit said.

Lawyers for both sides filed a joint motion Wednesday asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Cooke to postpone a case-management hearing scheduled April 7 until April 21.

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The lawsuit Reno lawyer Charles Jones filed Jan. 16 seeks unspecified unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, damages, penalties and attorney fees on behalf of Amador and any others who worked at Bully's the past three years as kitchen managers, assistant kitchen managers or cooks.

Bully's said Amador received bonuses and paid vacation in addition to his annual salary. It argues that it acted in good faith, believes it complied with the law and asked the judge a week ago to throw out the case.

Bully's "respectfully asks this court that plaintiff receives nothing," Reno lawyer Anthony Hall wrote in a Feb. 20 motion for dismissal.

All workers are required to be paid time and one-half for every hour a week worked over 40 unless narrowly exempted as "bona fide" executives working in an "administrative or professional capacity or in the capacity of outside salesman," the lawsuit said.

Bully's appropriately exempted general managers and assistant general managers because of their supervisory responsibilities. But the cooks' and kitchen managers' primary duty was not management, the lawsuit said. "These salaried 'managers' are not responsible for the day to day operations of the sports bars," according to the lawsuit.

Workers reported their hours through an automated time-keeping system, the lawsuit said. Bully's was aware of the hours Amador and others worked based on weekly kitchen schedules the company has in its possession, it said.

Bully's acknowledges that Amador and others sometimes worked in excess of 40 hours a week, but the company denies its time-tracking system was automated and denies the kitchen schedules were adhered to rigidly.

Bully's has a license from Bully's Inc. of San Diego, California, to use the name, but it is not otherwise affiliated with Bully's Inc. It opened its first tavern in Reno in 1994 and operates them with gambling licenses limited to 15 slot machines each.