KEENE — Koto Steak House employees who thought they had to give up their tips or lose their jobs are owed almost $43,000, according to a New Hampshire Department of Labor report.

A state inspector found that 11 employees were forced to participate in a “tip share” program, according to the report.

The owners of the Winchester Street restaurant, which includes a sushi bar and hibachi tables, kept 50% of staff tips. The money was redistributed to the sushi chef and hibachi chefs through an illegal tip-sharing program, according to the report. The report found that the employees believed that if they did not share their tips they would be fired.

“It is the position of the department that this tip share policy violates statute in that there is coercion through negative consequences for non-participation,” the report stated.

The report also found that because of the tip share program, employees were having their wages diverted. The report details 11 employees who had tips taken. The total amount of money diverted is more than $42,000, according to the report.

The restaurant owners also shorted employee on credit card tips, the report stated, keeping a 3% “processing fee” on those transactions. The report found the restaurant also failed at least four times to pay employees for an entire week of work when due.

At least six employees were working without proper documentation to prove they were eligible to work in the United States, according to the report. There were also deficiencies in the record-keeping for hours worked, according to the report.

The restaurant has 30 days to pay fines totaling $3,200 and the wages owed employees or request a hearing. It also has the option of requesting an informal meeting with Department of Labor officials to potentially negotiate a settlement.

Friday, April 03, 2020