A former sous chef at Superiority Burger is suing chef-owner Brooks Headley for allegedly failing to pay her for her work on his forthcoming cookbook.
Julia Goldberg worked at the standout East Village vegetarian burger joint for a year and a half, during which time she alleges she put in up to 16 extra hours of work per week on The Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious, due out in June 2018. Now, she is claiming Headley is not only refusing to pay her for that work, but also threatened her repeatedly throughout the process, Courthouse News reports. Update: Headley declined to comment.
Headley told Goldberg to write the recipes, offering “to split the advance with [Goldberg] and to ensure she had equal credit on the book for working with him to complete the manuscript,” the complaint reportedly states. With this arrangement — not formalized with a contract — Goldberg says she wrote about 80 percent of the manuscript.
Though Goldberg reportedly repeatedly asked Headley for payment, he “dismissed her requests and refused to pay her any money, telling her to wait for the advance or the publication,” the complaint says. By September 2016, Goldberg reportedly asked for a contract with Norton, the book’s publisher, as well as overtime pay for her work, but Headley allegedly “continued to intimidate her, threatening her position and otherwise” rather than pay her. Goldberg claims she has these threats over email, though they are not included in the complaint.
Finally in October 2016, Goldberg reportedly stopped working at Superiority after signing a one-paragraph contract “under duress” and allegedly being forced to share the manuscript with Headley. “She did not return to work despite the threats and insults from Headley,” the complaint says.
According to Goldberg and the complaint, the contract reportedly agreed that she “would be paid ‘no less than $5,000,’ dependent on the amount of the advance actually paid” as well as given a “shared credit” on the book.
Despite the alleged contract, Goldberg says she never received any payments, and that Headley allegedly continued to harass her via emails and text messages. His counsel is now saying that her work was not “independent” since she was an employee while it was produced. Goldberg is suing for damages for minimum wage and overtime violations.
Superiority Burger opened in June 2015 to rave reviews from Eater, the Times, and others. It is Headley’s first standalone restaurant after rising to acclaim at Italian fine-dining leader Del Posto, during which time he earned a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.