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Chef Mario Batali Reaches Multi-Million-Dollar Agreement Over Employee Tips

Posted on 09 Mar 2012

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Chef Mario Batali has reached a multi-million dollar settlement in his long-running legal battle with restaurant workers over improperly withheld tips.

Mario Batali and his business partners will settle the class action suit for $5.25 million 19 months after the dispute began in July 2010, confirmed court documents.

The money represents compensation for what the plaintiffs have described as a pervasive, illegal pattern of tip skimming at restaurants, including at his famous Greenwich Village restaurant Babbo.

They say that Batali's New York restaurants, among other misdeeds, took four to five percent of tips given to servers for alcohol and wine sales to pay sommeliers' salaries.

Settlements from the $5.25 million fund will be available to 'all individuals who worked at the Restaurants as captains, servers, waiters, bussers, runners, back waiters, bartenders, and/or barbacks from July 22, 2004 to February 14, 2012, and who do not opt out of the settlement,' according to documents.

The exact amount due to each plaintiff is determined by the number of hours he or she has worked for the celebrity chef, who is close friends with Gwyneth Paltrow and hosts ABC’s The Chew.

The 117 plaintiffs in the suit were led by Stephanie Capsolas and Hernan Ricardo Alvarado, a former waitress and kitchen runner, at Babbo.
They are represented by New York law firms Outten & Golden LLP and Joseph, Herzfeld, Hester & Kirschenbaum LLP.

Maimon Kirschenbaum, a partner at the latter firm, has been described as the 'scourge of restaurateurs' because of his proclivity for legal action against high-profile restaurants.

Court documents filed in New York's Southern District Court on Monday indicate that the parties agreed on the material terms of the settlement on October 27, 2011 and suggest that the final settlement will take place by mid-June.

The confidentiality clause of the settlement stipulates that both the plaintiff and the defendant in the case may not ‘communicate to any media or media representative, including but not limited to the electronic, print or digital media or social networking site, information regarding the Litigation.’
owever, last September Batali’s chief business partner Joe Bastianich was quoted in The New York Post saying:

‘Money-hungry lawyers, through frivolous lawsuits, are shaking down the very foundation of Manhattan’s restaurant industry. [...] You’re forced to settle. Why go to trial and risk a $5 million settlement if you can settle for a million and a half?’

This is not the first legal dispute for the rotund chef after waiter Eugene Gibbons launched a lawsuit claiming he was sexually harassed while working at Babbo.

Batali, 51, who is also well known for his trademark orange Crocs, owns 17 restaurants across the country, including Manhattan’s hot spots Del Posto, Otto and Lupa.