Former Signature Room workers awarded $1.5 million in back pay, benefits

Former Signature Room employees will share $1.5 million in back pay and benefits after a federal judge ruled the operator of the famed restaurant and lounge closed in September without proper notice.

Unite Here Local 1, representing the 132 workers at the Signature Room and its lounge in the former John Hancock building, said in a lawsuit last October the employer failed to give 60 days notice of a closing or mass layoff, violating state law. The union filed the suit against Infusion Management Group, the restaurant operator.

The complaint alleged workers were notified of the closure in an email sent at 6 a.m. on Sept. 28, the day the restaurant and lounge closed its doors. The lawsuit asked that the workers receive pay, health insurance coverage and other benefits for 60 days under the state’s Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, known as the WARN Act.

On March 14, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ordered Infusion Management Group to pay the former employees $1.5 million in back pay and benefits and $22,725 in attorney fees.

In a news release, Unite Here said the overwhelming majority of the workers are people of color who worked as cooks, servers, bartenders and concierges. One-third of them had been working at the Signature Room for 15 years or more and eight celebrated their 30th work anniversary last summer.

The workers plan to celebrate the win on Thursday afternoon outside the former Hancock building at the southeast corner of North Michigan Avenue and East Delaware Place.