By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — Former Gene's Root Beer Stand employees took to the streets Friday to call attention to their grievances with the family drive-in on South Scatterfield Road.
Carrying placards and signs, a half-dozen former employees and supporters responded to honked horns, thumbs-up signs and occasional hollered words of encouragement from passing motorists. "You fight for it, sisters," shouted one driver.
A spokesman for the Anderson Police Department on Thursday confirmed that Andrew Moorman is under criminal investigation for allegedly stealing tips from carhops. No charges have been filed at this point, and any charging recommendations would have to be approved by Madison County Prosecutor's office.
The investigation began after two former carhops, Susan Coppess and Courtney Smith, claimed Moorman was taking a percentage of their tips based on sales. Carhops earn a base wage of $2.15 per hour, so they generally make the bulk of their money through tips.
Coppess worked at Gene's for four years; Smith worked there for one year.
"I'm 47 and college educated," Coppess said. "Don't treat me like I'm stupid. I worked here because I liked the job."
According to Coppess and others, in early 2012, Moorman told carhops he was going to take 2 percent of their total sales from tips to help cover higher food costs and other expenses, a financial hit that could cost up to $30 a shift, several of the former workers said.
One employee contacted an attorney who told Moorman the practice was illegal, and asked him to stop. Moorman did, and paid back some of the money, Coppess and others said.
In June 2012, something more ominous began occurring. Coppess discovered that Moorman and a restaurant manager were ringing up purchases before the restaurant opened and carhops reported for work, purchases the carhops had to cover from their tips. When Coppess confronted Moorman, he allegedly told her if she didn't go to the police, she'd have a job for life.
After losing her job in March, Coppess did approach police. She claims to have receipt records and an audio recording that backs up her claims. That information and material is now in the hands of investigators. Coppess also claims that Moorman offered to give her $400 to drop her claim. Coppess declined the offer.
Moorman’s attorney, Brian Williams, said the complaints are a case of retribution against Moorman because the women did not get hired back on in 2013, and there are no real facts to support the case.
“This is an issue they complained about last summer, but they continued working throughout the summer and fall without any complaints,” Williams said. “The only reason we’re talking about this is because the women didn’t get hired back.”
Not so, said Megan McNally, who worked part-time at the restaurant for 12 years, and joined in Friday's protest.
"I'm not mad I didn't get my job back. I quit," McNally said. "I'm not going to work for an employer I can't trust."
As the restaurant prepared to open Friday morning, the protesters were approached by a former colleague, Jamey Knight, who's now in her ninth season as a carhop at Gene's. No harsh words were exchanged, but "this makes me really sad," she said.
Knight said she saw the newspaper story and was concerned some employees might quit.
"I love it here," she said. "I see family, I see friends; it's a fun job. I threw on my apron, then my hat and rushed out of the house. I'm here to work if they need me. They've been good to me, so I'm showing them my support in return."
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