"The objective... is to achieve a comfort level between the cook/artist/performer and the customer/viewer/diner. And if we can achieve that, and the customers are happy and the cooks are happy, then we have a great experience." -Chef Mario Batali
Chef Batali allegedly left one aspect out of the equation, paying workers a legal wage. 27 workers are suing Del Posto, Batali's restaurant, in Manhattan federal court. It's not the first time. Batali and his partners are facing similar suits at their other restaurants.The recent lawsuit comes just after Del Posto was awarded a rare fourth star by The New York Times.
The workers in the lawsuit include busboys, waiters and other staffers who allege that Del Posto pooled workers' tips illegally in violation of state labor laws. The lawsuit alleges that the restaurant created a point system that determined how much each worker received in tips. For example, captains were allotted six points, while stockers received two points.
The lawsuit further alleges that Del Posto kept a portion of some of the tips on wine and cheese. It also claims that banquet workers received flat fees for their shifts, not the 23 percent service charge billed to patrons who likely believed that the service charge was a tip. The lawsuit seeks back pay, attorney's fees and additional damages.
Attorney Michael Weber represents Chef Batali and partners Joseph and Lidia Bastianich. He did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press, who contacted his office for comment.
Tip pooling is a topic of controversy and legal dispute that comes up more frequently than one might assume. New York in particular has seen employees file suits against several restaurants, including celebrity chef Bobby Flay, The AP reports.
Tip pooling is generally legal, as long as it is done in a way that complies with state and federal law. Employees cannot be forced to share tips with employees who have not customarily and regularly participated in tip pooling arrangements, such as dishwashers, cooks, and janitors. Tipped employees cannot be required to contribute a greater percentage of their tips than is customary and reasonable.