Mario Batali and his upscale Italian restaurant Babbo is being sued over alleged wage violations by dogged restaurant world attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum — again.
Former busser Octavio Quinones, who worked at the Greenwich Village restaurant from early 2016 to October 2017, claims he was shortchanged overtime pay and his full minimum wage earnings, according to a federal lawsuit. He is seeking to make it a class action lawsuit and is asking for attorney fees and unspecified damages for unpaid compensation.
The accusations follow another wage lawsuit against Babbo and Batali, when Kirschenbaum’s firm reached a $5 million settlement with Batali in a class action settlement in 2012.
Like with the previous labor lawsuit, Quinones claims that management improperly withheld tips, but the allegations here focus more on full minimum wage payment. The former busser claims he was unfairly paid the tipped minimum of $7.50 an hour, saying he was not informed that the full minimum wage was $11 and that the restaurant intended to take a $3.50 “tip credit” against his wage, according to the suit.
He also claims that he spent more than 20 percent of his time doing “non-tipped side-work” such as cleaning the floors and folding napkins before the restaurant opened, and thus should have been paid an $11 minimum wage.
Beyond the wage issue, Quinones claims he was unfairly let go by a manager, who initially told him he could miss a shift for his brother’s wedding, then fired him in October for taking the time off, according to the suit.
In 2010, Kirschenbaum’s firm sued Babbo, Batali, business partner Joe Bastianich, and their company Pasta Resources for illegally skimming tips. By 2012, people from restaurants across the NYC Batali empire had joined in the class action lawsuit, and Batali and the crew settled it for $5.25 million. Batali also paid an additional $1.5 million to settle unfair wage claims from service workers at his Del Posto, in a separate suit with other attorneys at the helm, in 2012.
Babbo and Batali are also being sued for discrimination, with a former pastry chef claiming managers at the restaurant used homophobic and anti-Mexican slurs.
Kirschenbaum has sued numerous other high-profile chefs and restaurants for wage issues, including Nobu and Le Bernadin. He did not immediately return a request for comment.
Carolyn Richmond, a lawyer for Batali and Bastianich, said they believe the suit “has no merit.” “Babbo respects the rights of its current and former employees to seek administrative or judicial redress whenever and wherever they see necessary,” Richmond said in an email. “However, the restaurant strongly believes that they have been in compliance with all federal and New York wage and hour laws, and continue to work very hard to educate their employees — staff and managers — on the applicable rules and regulations in place in the workplace.”