Tip Misappropriation Lawsuit Against Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich Expands, According to Workers' Legal Team

Jul 30, 2010, 11:14 ET from Outten & Golden LLP

NEW YORK, July 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The restaurant empire owned by Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich allegedly violated federal and state labor laws, according to an amended lawsuit filed Thursday in New York federal court on behalf of 11 current and former employees. The initial lawsuit named one restaurant owned by Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, as a defendant.

The amended lawsuit adds five more restaurants owned by Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich as defendants – Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Lupa Osteria Romana, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in New York City, and Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, New York.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of hourly food service workers employed by Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich, alleges violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL). The workers are represented by Outten & Golden LLP in New York, and Joseph, Herzfeld, Hester & Kirschenbaum LLP in New York.

The amended complaint alleges the Batali-Bastianich enterprise "unlawfully confiscated a portion of their workers' hard-earned tips in order to supplement their own profit. At the end of every shift, instead of distributing customers' credit card tips to the workers who earned them as the law requires, Mr. Batali, Mr. Bastianich, and their restaurants took from the tip pool an amount equal to approximately 4-5% of the restaurants' wine sales (and sometimes other beverage sales) for the night and put it in their own pockets."

The defendants also are accused of depriving workers of proper minimum wages, overtime pay, and spread-of-hours pay.

Justin M. Swartz, Rachel Bien, and Sonia R. Lin, of Outten & Golden LLP, and D. Maimon Kirschenbaum and Denise A. Schulman, of Joseph, Herzfeld, Hester & Kirschenbaum LLP, represent the workers.

The legal team will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a class action to recover minimum wages, overtime, misappropriated tips, and spread-of-hours pay for hourly service workers employed by the defendants between July 22, 2004 and the date of final judgment in this matter.

Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich own a restaurant empire that includes Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa Osteria Romana, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, and The Spotted Pig in New York City, and Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, New York.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Batali has been profiled in numerous national news publications and appeared on national TV shows. His website claims that he holds the honor of most wins in the history of the Iron Chef America program. He previously won the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef: New York City" and "Outstanding Chef of the Year" awards.

Justin M. Swartz stated, "Given all of his success and fame, and his reputation for helping others, we expect Mario Batali to set an example for other restaurant owners. He should pay as much attention to the labor laws as he does his recipes. This means, at a minimum, letting his workers keep the tips they earn. I don't believe that the Batali restaurant empire needs to dip into the tip pool in order to make a profit."

D. Maimon Kirschenbaum stated, "Mr. Bastianich and Mr. Batali are not above the law. It is a stunning response to a lawsuit to announce to the world a commitment to fight one's employees until the end. At some point, we hope restaurant owners will learn that service employees also have rights, and they are fully able to vindicate them."

The plaintiffs are Stephanie Capsolas, Herman Ricardo Alvarado, Jeffrey Cutaiar, Nicole Medvitz, Paul Toro, Daniel Jansen, Roger Caro, Chris Ell, Chris Forbes, Jesse Patrick, and Diana Dietrich.

The case is "Stephanie Capsolas, et al., v. Pasta Resources Inc., et al.," Case No. 10-cv-5595 (RJH) in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

Attorney Contacts:

Justin M. Swartz, Rachel Bien, and Sonia R. Lin, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, 212.245.1000, www.outtengolden.com and www.lawsuitagainstbatali.com.

D. Maimon Kirschenbaum and Denise Schulman, Joseph, Herzfeld, Hester & Kirschenbaum LLP, 212.688.5640, www.jhllp.com.

SOURCE Outten & Golden LLP