A group of 27 current and former employees at celebrity chef Mario Batali’s Del Posto restaurant are suing the restaurant because they say managers illegally skimmed tip-pool funds meant for service workers.
The employees worked banquets at the upscale Lower Manhattan Italian restaurant. The restaurant charges banquet diners a 23% gratuity, but pays workers a flat rate for working events. A restaurant workers advocacy group, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), claims the practice deprives workers of earned tip income.The ROC had attempted to negotiate a settlement for six months, and filed the suit when negotiations failed.
Unlike another suit facing a Batali-owned restaurant, this one is not seeking class-action certification. A suit against Batali’s other high-end restaurant, Babbo, started out with just two employees and now has been joined by more than 20 others. That suit alleges that 4.5% of wine sales at the restaurant should be included in the tip pool. Batali faces a similar suit against one of his California restaurants.
Final note: While not technically a union, the ROC appears to be filling a union’s role by alerting workers to their rights, helping them file lawsuits and serving as an industry watchdog. The group has targeted high-profile restaurants in major metropolitan areas.