Either restaurateurs are all of a sudden misbehaving (or all of a sudden getting caught for misbehaving) or some opportunistic lawyers and restaurant employees see potential payoffs in the fallout of the major Batali & Bastianich lawsuit earlier this summer.
Alto, the high end Italian resto from Michael White and Chris Cannon is the latest restaurant—following Batali's empire, the '21' Club, Fresco by Scotto, Brother Jimmy's, and Artisanal—to be hit with a Fair Labor Standards Act suit this year. Three current employees allege that "that they unlawfully took a tip credit and paid less than the full minimum wage, that they denied their waitstaff spread-of-hours pay, and that they required them to purchase and launder required uniforms.”
See the full release below:
Lawsuit: NYC’s Alto Restaurant Violated Labor Laws· All Coverage of Restaurant Industry Lawsuits [~ENY~]
NEW YORK, August 31, 2010 -- The upscale Italian restaurant Alto allegedly violated federal and state labor laws, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in New York federal court by three current employees.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a class of current and former Alto assistants (servers), captains, bussers, and runners, alleges violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL). Outten & Golden LLP represents the workers.
The defendants are Altamarea Group, LLC, Alto 53, LLC, and restaurateur Chris Cannon who, along with chef Michael White, own and/or operate Alto and several other New York City restaurants, including Marea and Convivio. Cannon and White reportedly will open two new restaurants, Osteria Morini and Ai Fiori, in the coming months.
The complaint alleges, “[D]espite their great success, which Cannon and White achieved on the backs of their waitstaff, they required their waitstaff to share their hard-earned tips with tip ineligible workers, including the General Manager of Alto, that they unlawfully took a tip credit and paid less than the full minimum wage, that they denied their waitstaff spread-of-hours pay, and that they required them to purchase and launder required uniforms.”
The workers’ legal team will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a class action to recover misappropriated tips, minimum wages, spread-of-hours pay, and uniform-related expenses for assistants (servers), captains, bussers, and runners who worked at Alto between August 30, 2004 and the date of final judgment in this matter.
Attorney Rachel Bien, who represents the plaintiffs, stated, “As one of the most successful restaurateurs in New York City, Chris Cannon should set an example for the entire restaurant community that it pays to treat your workers fairly and abide by the law. We hope this lawsuit will convince restaurant owners across New York City not to use employee tips to increase managers’ pay.”
The plaintiffs are Arturo Reyes, of Queens, New York, Daniel Medino, of Queens, New York, and Jose Arenas, of Queens, New York.
The case is “Arturo Reyes, et al., v. Altamarea Group, LLC, Alto 53, LLC d/b/a Alto, and Chris Cannon,” Case No. 10 CIV 6451 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
[Photo courtesy of Alto]