Celeb Chef Mario Batali Sued Over Tips By Staff At Yet Another Restaurant

Back in July, pony-tailed celeb chef Mario Batali found himself the subject of a lawsuit filed by workers at five of his NYC area restaurants for allegedly withholding credit card tips from the staff. Absent from that litigation were employees at Batali’s flagship eatery Del Posto… until yesterday when 27 members of that restaurant’s staff sued, claiming they weren’t paid a legal wage.

Writes the AP:

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 backpay, unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.

Mario Batali, partners sued over tips at NY eatery [AP]

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  1. c!tizen says:

    what’s got two thumbs and stiff’s his employees….

  2. Bativac says:

    Man, how old is that picture of Mario Batali?

    It’s like he is saying, “Welcome to Del Posto, Jack! Don’t expect to get paid!”

    • ChuckECheese says:

      The creepy thing about success is that it provides one with more money to spend on things like aestheticians, hair transplants, plastic surgery, HRT, and PR reps with Photoshop skills. It may be that this is a very recent photo of MB.

  3. jdmba says:

    They pool tips in Las Vegas all the time. Casinos vary between ‘you keep your own tips’, ‘you pool the shift,’ and ‘you pool the day’.

    • common_sense84 says:

      The illegal part is when they include captains/higher ups in the tip pool and with a larger share.

      Tip pools can only legally include tipped employees. Managers and non tipped employees cannot be included in the same tip pool as tipped employees where the business takes the federal tip credit against their wages.

      But there is one exception, are these actually tipped employees or not? A tipped employee is when the restaurant takes a tip credit against the employee’s wage.

      Where a restaurant pays the employee 2.30 an hour and uses tips to pay the rest up to 7.25.

      If the restaurant was paying the employees at least 7.25 straight up and was not using the tip credit, then the employees have no right to any of the tips.

      Of course none of these articles declare what the hourly wage of these employees was. It would be nice if reporters actually knew about what they reported on so they could ask the simple questions that make the difference.

      • drizzt380 says:

        Whoa, whoa, whoa. That is not what a tipped employee is.

        A tipped employee is anyone who “customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips”. That is the department of labor’s definition.

        Precluding a VALID tip pooling arrangement, the tips are the sole property of the person who received them. I know tip pools aren’t valid if non-tipped employees are included or if the tipped employee is not allowed to keep at least the minimum wage after putting in their lot(if they are receiving less as a tipped employee).

        I would like to mention that the suing for getting paid a flat fee on the service charge isn’t going to happen. If it is actually a service charge, the employees have no right to it at all.

        • common_sense84 says:

          Wrong, unless there is a state law saying otherwise. A tipped employee is someone who has a tip credit taken out of their tips to pay for their minimum wage pay.

      • thesalad says:

        This varies state by state.
        In NYS tips can not be taken away from employees regardless of pay. If your employer wants to pay to $9 and you are working in a tiped place (valet, restaurant, coat check whatever) you still get the tips.. it was their decision to pay you more than the mandated minimum for tipped employees.
        In NYS Tip pools are also legal ONLY if it is shared with tipped employees AND they agree to pooling.. The tiered tipping won’t work.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    23%?! No thank you.

  5. apd09 says:

    Not complaining but I don’t really understand how this is a consumer issue other alerting to people to what is going on and letting them decide if they want to eat there or not.

    I guess that is a consumer issue but it seems like this is worthy of posting because it is Mario Batali which lends itself more to the TMZ celebrity style news than true consumerist relevant topic.

    Aon a side note, my wife and I love Iron Chef but find episodes with Batali by far to be the least exciting.

    • GMFish says:

      I don’t really understand how this is a consumer issue other alerting to people to what is going on and letting them decide if they want to eat there or not.

      You got to love a commenter who answers his own question!

      If I found out the tips I left didn’t go to the server, I’d stop going to the restaurant.

      • Harmodios says:

        I’d just stop leaving tips.

      • apd09 says:

        I am just guessing but you, me, and many other people who frequent this site probably do not eat at his establishments regularly so overall there is a small amount of people who might make the decision to not go there. He has 15 places in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, that seems like a small amount of the demographic states of readers for Consumerist.

        More relevant would have been to post something today about the Ticketmaster Class Action Lawsuit filed regarding the over charging of UPS costs to ship and Processing and Handling Fees. Ticketmaster willfully marked up the cost to ship and then pocketed the difference.

        • Gulliver says:

          So YOU determine what is relevant now? Thousands of people a year go to these restaurants, AND would the story be “acceptable” to you as the chosen one if it were happening in every Applebees in the country?
          I could make the argument I have not spent a dime with Ticketmaster in over 20 years. I have been to several of the restaurants in question, so YES, this matters much more to me.

          • apd09 says:

            Yes I make the decisions, way to look micro as opposed to macro. You may be the exception to my statement but it does not change the fact that in this case you are in the extreme minority of people which probably is about 5% or less of the readers on the site and would rather making snarky comments at a person making it a personal issue than having a legitimate debate/discussion. Did I even claim to make the decision or did I ask how the decision was made and give a poignant set of reasons why I felt that way? That’s what I though.

            I sent an email off to Meg Marco last night asking this specific question about what constitutes a worthy story on Consumerist because I and many other people get confused with what is posted on here sometimes. Don’t give me the whole if you don’t like it don’t read it because sometimes unless you read it you have no idea what it is really about from the brief intro stories are given.

      • knoxblox says:

        In my opinion, you’re the exception.

        I used to work at a restaurant in Chicago where the owner/manager would stiff the staff using any excuse he could, i.e. the excuse to cover his credit card service payments by using a percentage of the staff’s tips.

        It’s a popular restaurant, and many people know the owner’s a jerk (one customer went so far as to ask me, “he’s kind of an —hole, isn’t he?”), and know he treats the staff badly, but that doesn’t stop them from coming.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      How companies and employers treat their employees is relevant to consumers. That you personally happen to not care about this doesn’t make it TMZ news.

    • BDSanta2001 says:

      People in the service industry are consumers too.

      • apd09 says:

        You’re right they are, but that is not the point. They as consumers have no bearing over the point of the story except that they have less money to consume goods. Do you understand my thoughts, this is a site for consumer issues facing consumers, not that some people were getting shorted tips, that is not a consumer issue that is a bad business practice. A bad business practice is a consumerist issue whether it affects the majority of consumers or a few, I admit that.

        I think it sucks that this happened to them and right now I am part of a class action suit against TGIFridays for the way they treated us making us buy uniforms, not paying us for lunch breaks, and other stuff but that story is not here. It is not sour grapes just pointing out that servers all over are taken advantage of but nothing makes this story different than other stories except it is Mario Batali and his restaurants are usually more high end than what the readers of consumerist probably frequent on a regular basis. If I am going out for a nice dinner I would probably not think twice about still going there if I like his food.

        We all have a right to our opinion and no i did not need to post a comment about the story and could have just moved on but as long as I am polite in the way I do it I can post a comment bringing up the points I did.

        Does my thought process make sense to you in the relevance of my comment?

  6. BigHeadEd says:

    Well, it costs money to keep the red-headed one in new Crocs, what’s the beef?

  7. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Mario Batalli has always stuck me as a bit douchey.

  8. quijote says:

    I only know him from that pretentious PBS show, “Spain: on the road again.” I think at jury selection, his lawyers are going to want to weed out anyone who’s seen that show.

    • Fight Back Against David Horowitz! says:

      I used to like his cooking show – the one where it was just him and three people at the bar around his kitchen. He made some food that looked and sounded pretty good.

      I’m with you, though: that PBS Spain show (“Mario Batalli On the Road Again) was unbelievably bad. I say he’s guilty!

  9. Cicadymn says:

    That’s what he gets for wearing bright orange crocs to the freakin’ white house.

  10. Hitchcock says:

    True. But I’ve seen him fairly recently. That’s either been touched by the best Photoshopper ever, or its a 20 year old photo.

  11. JollyJumjuck says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    1) Tips should only go to employees making less than minimum wage. Just because you are in the service industry does not automatically entitle you to tips. I know plenty of people who bust their asses doing their jobs at minimum wage, and they don’t get tips.

    2) Get rid of the tipping culture. Don’t underpay employees so that they have to live on tips. And make tipping completely optional, rather than the pseudo-mandatory practice which it is today.

    • Thespian says:

      “Don’t underpay employees so that they have to live on tips.”

      It never takes long for this proposal to come up. But I’d be willing to bet that if restaurants did this on Monday, most of the people who proposed it will be complaining by Tuesday, when they see how high menu prices have been jacked up to compensate.

  12. JuanHunt says:

    I never tip one a card, always in cash, and I always front some of the tip when ordering, as a bribe, to insure excellent service.

    • macruadhi says:

      Funny, When I order, I make it known that I expect excellent service from the waiter/waitress because that’s their job. It is no fault of mine that (1) They chose a job that pays far less than what the law allows for other jobs, (2) people continue to allow restaurants to pay a measly two bucks and change per hour.

      • mythago says:

        By “people”, you mean “you”. After all, if you gave a rip about something other than finding an excuse not to tip, you could confine your business to restaurants that don’t rely on tips to pay their employees, and tell the tip-mongers why they won’t be getting your money.

      • Preppy6917 says:

        Way to be condescending. In my section, you’d go to the bottom of my list. People who walk in with that attitude are simply looking for a reason to stiff their server, so I why should I go out of my way to give them great service when I may have four or five other tables? I never give BAD service, but I’m certainly not going to bend over backwards for this guy.

      • Thespian says:

        Wrong. “Service” is their job. “Excellent service” is above and beyond, and if you’ve never experienced it, it’s most likely because the veteran server spots you (the chronic non-tipper) coming from a mile away.