More Former Employees Are Claiming flow Owner Rhys Watkins Didn’t Pay Them

One employee said that she endured several unpaid 11-hour training sessions and then received no communication or payment from Watkins.

Mar 17, 2023 at 10:13 am
click to enlarge Several people who had worked at flow coffee shop in Newport say that owner Rhys Watkins did not pay them for their work or for their training. - Photo: Katie Griffith
Photo: Katie Griffith
Several people who had worked at flow coffee shop in Newport say that owner Rhys Watkins did not pay them for their work or for their training.

Additional former employees of flow coffee shop are coming forward with allegations against owner Rhys Watkins.

In February, CityBeat reported on the claims that Kay Ratliff had levied against Watkins, her former employer at flow (stylized in lowercase letters). An hourly employee, Ratliff alleged that Watkins had altered time cards, did not compensate her for overtime work and required unpaid training sessions (Watkins disputed Ratliff’s claims).

Since then, a number of other former flow employees have shared similar experiences, with some seemingly sharing a pattern of going through long periods of unpaid training without being added to the work schedule afterwards.

Watkins has not responded to CityBeat’s multiple interview requests since an initial interview on Feb. 2.

Rachel Moon’s claims

Rachel Moon served as the general manager for flow’s Newport location as well as the shop’s now-closed locations in Over-the-Rhine and Northside as well as Watkins’ Newport deli Full of Bologna. She told CityBeat that she was a salaried employee in September and October and received a weekly $558.58 net pay.

Moon told CityBeat that she resigned in October, citing wage differences among employees as well as Watkins’ lack of communication, not paying employees for training and making employees work long hours without breaks.

“I had missed a paycheck when I first started for whatever reason,” Moon told CityBeat. “He said he couldn't issue it to me and that he would have to pay me in cash, so I got at least one paycheck in cash. And then when I quit, he refused to pay me my last paycheck.”

Moon said that Watkins withheld her final paycheck until she filed a complaint action with the Kentucky Department of Labor. After reviewing paychecks and other documents, the department called Watkins and told him that he needed to pay her, Moon said.

“I was tracking my own hours, actually – Rhys never asked me to track my hours. But I was doing it myself because I thought it was really weird that he wasn't asking me to do it,” Moon said. “So I sent all [of] that to the Department of Labor.”

Moon said she resigned on Oct. 26 and was supposed to receive her final paycheck on Oct. 28. According to Kentucky labor laws an employer has 14 days to provide a final paycheck, regardless of their reason for leaving. But Moon said that she did not receive her check until around Nov. 18, more than 20 days after her final date of employment.

James Metz’s and Emily Hockman’s claims

James Metz was a flow employee in August and September. He told CityBeat that he worked for Watkins a total of 40-60 hours, including training. Metz also told CityBeat that he had agreed to making $10 an hour plus tips. He added that Watkins soon offered him extra responsibility, but Metz didn’t take it because Watkins hadn’t paid him for any of his work to that point.

Metz said that when he brought up compensation to Watkins via phone and text message, a week-long text conversation ensued. It was not until Metz provided screenshots of Kentucky labor laws that Watkins agreed to pay for the work, Metz said.

“He said the only way he would pay me was through cash,” Metz told CityBeat. “So I showed up at the Newport location, and he gave me a wad of bills that was like $53 dollars short of what we had agreed upon over text. That was the first and only time I got paid.”

Metz told CityBeat that he was owed $350, but Watkins only gave him $273 in cash. Metz added that he did not receive any credit card tips that he’d earned during his time at flow. 
When CityBeat asked Watkins on Feb. 2 for a prior story if he had ever paid an employee in cash, the flow owner said that there was only one instance.

“I believe it was Christmas and payroll was going to come through on a Monday,” Watkins said at the time. “So I did it as manual checks and I paid the employees cash instead and offered them the ability to have printed pay stubs along with it.”

It’s unclear which employees were the recipients of Watkins’ holiday cash payment.

“I was only offered cash,” Metz told CityBeat. “No pay stub was mentioned and it was nowhere near Christmas. All of the tips I had earned during my time just kind of floated away somehow.”

Watkins told CityBeat in February that he has never altered an employee's tips, adding that tips are automated and assigned to an employee when they clock in using their specific passcode.

In a prior interview with CityBeat, Ratliff said that Watkins uses the point-of-sale system Square for both customer orders and tracking employee hours. She claimed that’s where Watkins allegedly had altered payment details.

According to, the owner of a business should have “full access” to all permissions and actions throughout the system. Access pertaining to time cards and tip settings reveals the ability to “view and edit timecard data” and “choose the tip distribution method,” Square’s materials say.

The Square website also declares, “Owners can manage all content and settings.”

Watkins previously had told CityBeat that he didn’t have control over employee tips.

“They are fully automated from when the employee clocks in in the morning. It tracks them using a passcode,” Wakins said in a Feb. 2 interview. “When I contacted the payroll system, they told me that the employee, if they do not enter the passcode on the system, it does not track their tips.”
But Emily Hockman, who worked at flow last summer, told CityBeat that she had never been compensated at all for her time there. Hockman said she was hired at $9 per hour plus tips. She estimated that she worked 40 hours total but that there was no formal way of clocking in or out. It’s unclear if Watkins used Square for tracking employee hours at that time.

Hockman said that once she finished training, Watkins did not respond to her calls or texts about being added to the schedule or about compensation. She said that some of her training was unsupervised and that each shift was 11 hours long. After several attempts to connect with Watkins, Hockman said she cut her losses.

“As soon as I finished training, I texted [Watkins] and I just asked him, ‘When can I get on the schedule?’ And it was radio silence,” Hockman told CityBeat. “So that was the point where I was like, okay, nothing's gonna happen further with this.”

As of press time, Watkins has not responded to CityBeat’s repeated inquiries concerning Metz’s and Hockman’s allegations.

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