Waiters, bartenders, busboys and other employees who have worked for celeb chef and restaurateur Mario Batali are celebrating. Batali and business partner Joseph Bastianich have agreed to pay $5.25 million to resolve a lawsuit filed on behalf of waiters, captains and other employees who claimed that his restaurants had illegally confiscated part of their tips to supplement their profits.
The class-action settlement, which must be approved by a judge, could cover about 1,100 employees, including servers, busboys, runners and bartenders who worked at the restaurants, in some cases as far back as 2004. The staff claimed that, at the end of each night, the two owners would calculate four to five percent of the evenings total wine sales, and then deduct that amount from the staff’s tip pool. The New York Times reports that the money Batali and Bastianich took from the tip pool, they kept for themselves. Judge Richard J. Holwell wrote in his ruling that the restaurant staff was told these deductions from their tip pool went to replace broken glasses and dishes, but Holwell found no evidence of this. The plaintiffs also claimed that the two business partners failed to provide adequate overtime pay when restaurant staff had to work 10 hours, or more, a day.
Lawyers for both sides of the case have issued the exact same statement. Carolyn D. Richmond represents Batali and Bastianich, and Rachel Bein represents the restaurants staff. They both released a statement, which said, “The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.”
The lawyers for the plaintiffs may receive up to one-third of the settlement as legal fees, if the court approves. The defendants admit no wrongdoing.
Despite this case being resolved, Batali and Bastianich are not out of hot water just yet. They are both involved with another lawsuit, brought about by wait staff and other employees of their New York restaurant, Del Posto. Employees of this restaurant are suing the pair, claiming that they are still owed not just tips, but also hourly wages.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court by waiters, busboys and other staffers, claims managers at Del Posto improperly pooled workers’ tips in violation of state labor laws and illegally withheld a portion of some gratuities on wine and cheese sales.
The suit claims that Del Posto employees were ranked on a point system that determined which positions would get more of the tips than others. Captains received the most, followed by bartenders, waiters and then the rest of the staff. Additionally, staffers who worked banquets at Del Posto say they were not given their proper portion of the 23% service charge billed to the customers. Instead, they were paid a flat fee for working each banquet. The lawsuit seeks compensation including back pay, unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.
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