Albert’s in Didsbury has accused the ex-employee of defamation after she posted payslips to Facebook
The former waitress at the centre of a row over tipping has spoken to Confidential of her surprise after she received a letter threatening her with legal action.
Confidential contacted Emma Smith, 27, after publishing an article (13 June) in which she accused Albert’s in Didsbury of unfairly deducting tips from employees, fining staff for making simple mistakes and charging workers for taking breaks they were unable to take.
Smith said that although nobody at the company had attempted to contact her directly following her resignation, she had returned from a holiday in June to find a letter from Elle R Leisure’s solicitor.
I’ve not said anything that’s not true, I can back it all up with proof.
The letter accused Ms Smith of ‘defamatory statements’ and advised her to seek ‘specialist legal advice’ after she posted payslips to Facebook, which appeared to show the company deducting hundreds of pounds of tips from employees.
Her post – which accused the company of using staff tips to ‘line the owner’s pockets - caused a social media storm, attracting thousands of likes and shares plus calls for customer’s to boycott the restaurant.
The solicitor’s letter goes on to demand that Smith remove her comments from Facebook and ‘identify by list all persons to whom you have published such Defamatory statements’.
Smith, who worked at the modern British restaurant for five months, told Confidential she felt like the company – which also runs Dukes92 and Albert’s Shed in Castlefield – was trying to bully her into silence.
“I’ve not said anything that’s not true, I can back it all up with proof,” she said over the phone.
“I’ve had loads of messages of support from former members of staff,” she continued, “some have even left the company since the article went out.”
Following publication, Confidential has been in contact with a number of former employees of the group willing to back up the claims made by Smith.
In one example, Confidential was shown a payslip (dated 3 June 2018) that appeared to show an employee deducted £334.92 in tips and service charge, leaving them with just £6.75 in net pay.
Speaking to Confidential in June, Albert's owner James Ramsbottom claimed that "over 90% of tips earned go to staff on site", but admitted that, in the past, staff had been charged for making mistakes.
Smith told Confidential that she had not heard from Elle R Leisure’s solicitor since the first letter, and hoped that the whole thing would blow over.
Since publishing the article, Confidential has been in regular touch with Manchester’s new night time economy adviser, Sacha Lord – founder of Warehouse Project and organiser of Parklife festival.
Lord said that he intends to hold a discussion next month at the Deaf Institute (2 August, 2pm), inviting the city’s restaurant and bar staff to share their thoughts on tipping and service charge policy.
“It has recently come to our attention that some operators – as standard – keep quite a hefty chunk of the tips that should be given as a gratuity to their staff. This simply isn’t right or acceptable,” said Lord.
Confidential has contacted Mr Ramsbottom a number of times for further comment. We are yet to receive a reply.