‘Salt Bae’ and his steakhouse chain were sued in New York over claims they denied overtime pay to grill staff working 72-hour weeks

Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gokce, also known as 'Salt Bae', poses for photos at his restaurant 'Nusr-Et' at the Grand Bazaar after its reopening on June 1, 2020 in Istanbul.
Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gokce, also known as 'Salt Bae', poses for photos at his restaurant 'Nusr-Et' at the Grand Bazaar after its reopening on June 1, 2020 in Istanbul.
  • Salt Bae and his steakhouse were sued in New York over claims they avoided paying five workers overtime.
  • The grill staff at Nusr-Et steakhouse worked up to 90 hours per week, the lawsuit said.
  • The steakhouse classed the men as managers so they didn't receive paid overtime, it said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Nusret Gökçe, also known as "Salt Bae," and his steakhouse chain were sued on Tuesday in New York over claims they denied overtime pay to five grill staff who worked 72-hour weeks, CNBC first reported.

Er sel Ok, Muhammet Yilmaz, Emre Isler, Eyyup Yeniceri, and Ibrahim Gecit lived in Turkey before the Nusr-Et steakhouse chain recruited and brought them to the US between 2018 and 2019, the lawsuit said.

The five men worked in non-managerial roles as grillers, cooking meat in the kitchens, but the chain classified them as managers, which exempted them from paid overtime, according to the lawsuit.

Insider has reached out to Christy Reuter, a lawyer for Gökçe's, for comment. Reuter didn't immediately comment on the matter to CNBC, but said she would notify Gökçe about the publication's request.

The men, who had "to work grueling hours in non-managerial positions at the restaurants," were paid a weekly salary of $1,125, the suit said.

The men worked 72 hours or more a week without overtime pay, the lawsuit said.

This violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that employees are entitled to overtime pay after working 40 hours in one week, the lawsuit said. Overtime pay should equal to one and a half times hourly wage, according to the Act.

The lawsuit was filed by New York lawyer Louis Pechman in New York federal court.

In the US, Gökçe has steakhouses in New York, Miami, and Dallas. The men, between them, worked across the three steakhouses as well as Saltbae Burger in New York, the suit said.

On shifts when Gökçe was present, the men worked longer hours, sometimes up to 90 hours a week "because the 'boss' was present," the lawsuit said.

The chain and Gökçe didn't provide the men with accurate wage notices when they were hired, the suit said. They also didn't keep records of the men's working hours or wage statements, the suit added.

All of the men left the chain, founded by Gökçe, in July 2021, the suit said.

As well as working longer when Gökçe was in the restaurant, the five men were also told to cook special meals for him, the suit added.

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