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Batali, Bastianich to pay $5.25 million for allegedly cheating workers

NYC Italian restaurant dons allegedly violated the FLSA by pocketing employees’ tips

He’s gone from eating Italy to eating into his employees’ paychecks. Celebrity chef Mario Batali took a break from tooling about the Spanish countryside with his famous friends and comparing bankers to Hitler and Stalin to settle a class action lawsuit that a gaggle of disgruntled workers brought against a number of his restaurants.

Employees at Manhattan restaurants Babbo, Otto, Casa Mono, Bar Jamón, Esca, Lupa, Del Posto, and Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, N.Y., filed a lawsuit in 2010 against owners Batali and Joseph Bastianich accusing them of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The owners allegedly handed down an edict by which their restaurants deducted between 4 percent and 5 percent of the nightly wine sales from the tip pool. The restaurants then pocketed the money, telling the employees that it would go toward wine research and broken glasses.

A Tarry Lodge bartender told the court that this “was a policy across the Batali restaurant group” and that the money “went to the house,” Judge Richard Holwell wrote in a May 2011 decision. When the workers inquired about the practice, Tarry Lodge partner and owner Nancy Selzer refused to justify the policy and said it was not going to change.

The proposed $5.25 million settlement, which still must be approved by a judge, is expected to cover about 1,100 restaurant workers, including servers, bartenders, busboys and runners who worked at the restaurants dating back to 2004.

Lawyers for Batali issued statements yesterday, saying, “The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” the New York Times reports.The defendants admitted no wrongdoing.

For more, read the Times.

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