Real estate mogul Aby Rosen and his company are under fire for allegedly forcing female cocktail servers at the fancy bars inside his Gramercy Park Hotel to share their tips with male staffers, but not the other way around — with managers justifying the scheme by telling them, “You girls make too much money,” according to a new lawsuit.
Rosen, co-founder of RFR, the real estate company that operates the swanky hotel near Gramercy Park, is named as a defendant in the suit, which focuses on Rose Bar and Jade Bar in the property.
The suit accuses the managers of forcing female servers to share 20 percent of their tips with male bartenders — who also collected their own tips — and between 7 to 25 percent with back-of-house employees, according to the suit filed on December 4th in the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, allegedly no male employees, including all bartenders, were ever asked to share their tips; only the female servers were forced to do so, the suit claims.
When the female servers asked why this was the case, they were repeatedly told by managers that they “make too much money,” plus other “gender-based comments,” the suit alleges.
A cocktail server working at the bars could make more than $100 an hour in tips — yet up to 45 percent of that was taken by management to pay other employees, the plaintiff’s attorney David Kasell alleges. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tips were taken from female servers to pay others over the course of a year, Kasell claims.
Allison Ullo, a former server who worked between both bars for at least six years until March 2018, is suing on the grounds that the bar owners didn’t notify employees they would be getting a reduced wage or that a chunk of their tips would be used to pay others, as well as for violating federal minimum wage requirements. She’s also suing over the mandated tip sharing scheme, and for the hours she spent doing non-tipped work as a tipped worker.
She’s looking to bring in at least eight other servers who were similarly allegedly targeted during that time. Kasell says he thinks his client, plus other affected servers he aims to loop into the case, could win up to $5 million in damages.
“These guys should be very concerned,” he says, adding that Ullo has a “very strong case” against Rosen and others who operated the bars.
Others named in the suit include Gregg Popkin, the COO of RFR; Patrick Hall, vice president of hotel operations for the real estate group; and Dane Asermely and Sebastien Lefavre, who are named as former or current general mangers of the bars.
RFR did not immediately return requests for comment.
Rosen is a controversial NYC developer known for taking over the Seagram building in 2000, back when the Four Seasons operated from the space and making debatable changes to its landmarked interior. He brought in Major Food Group after the Four Seasons closed, which led to the opening of the Grill and the Pool in the iconic space.