Sea Salt restaurant faces lawsuit from server for tips

The server claims the restaurant "misappropriated" the tips.

St. Petersburg’s Sea Salt restaurant is facing a federal lawsuit brought by a former server alleging an illegal, “misappropriation” of tips. 

Brian Coleman, who worked as a server at Sea Salt from 2015 to March 2021, filed the case against the high-end restaurant in the Sundial retail center. 

In the suit, which includes co-owner Fabrizio Aielli as a defendant, Coleman claims that a fraction of his and other employees’ tips were sometimes diverted to the restaurant’s sommeliers, as well as to a “mandatory” tip pool. He continues saying that tips received via credit card were reduced to cover processing charges.

Tip pools are legal if they are limited only to employees who would normally receive tips, such as other wait staff or bartenders. However, tip pools may not include employees who would not normally receive tips, such as cooks or other back-of-the-house employees.

Meanwhile, Coleman was being paid on a reduced minimum wage, the suit states. This is allowed by federal law so long as the employee is allowed to keep 100% of their tips.

So, if Coleman was not allowed to keep a complete share of his tips, the restaurant would be in violation of federal code.

Coleman also alleges that from May to June 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sea Salt kept some or all of Coleman’s credit-card tips even though it had received a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan to compensate employees.

Laws require restaurants or other establishments with tipped employees to deliver all tips the employee earned on their regular payday, even if the establishment has not yet received payment from the credit card processor.

According to the suit, Coleman worked an average of 30 hours per week, and as a server, “was paid at the amount of the full Florida minimum wage less $3.02 per hour subtracted as the tip-credit,” meaning he was making about $5.54 an hour. 

In the suit, Coleman is seeking damages for unpaid minimum wages plus misappropriated tips.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


  • Candy

    May 8, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    And they wonder why no one wants to return to work when we are all getting screwed by employers

  • Travis

    May 10, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    He got fired for refusing to take a table because they were black. This is retaliation for being fired because he’s a racist.

    • Stewart

      May 13, 2021 at 2:47 pm

      Because those folks don’t tip well, it’s known in the industry.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn