Renowned restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich have reportedly been sued by workers in their East and West Coast restaurants. A complaint filed in late July 2010 by current and former employees of New York City’s Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca was amended to include a class of employees who work in five additional east coast eateries.  

They reportedly allege that the Batali-Bastianich enterprise “unlawfully confiscated a portion of their workers’ hard-earned tips in order to supplement their own profit. At the end of every shift, instead of distributing customers’ credit card tips to the workers who earned them as the law requires, Mr. Batali, Mr. Bastianich, and their restaurants took from the tip pool an amount equal to approximately 4-5% of the restaurants’ wine sales (and sometimes other beverage sales) for the night and put it in their own pockets.”  

The New York plaintiffs are apparently seeking class certification and the recovery of minimum wages, overtime, misappropriated tips, and “spreadof- hours pay.” A lawyer for the plaintiffs was quoted as saying, “Mr. Bastianich and Mr. Batali are not above the law. It is a stunning response to a lawsuit to announce to the world a commitment to fight one’s employees to the end. At some point, we hope the restaurant owners will learn that service employees also have rights, and they are fully able to vindicate them.” Batali has reportedly said, “I would love to come back with a ruling from a judge and have them throw [the lawsuit] out. We’re going to fight this to every inch of the law, because we know we’re right. We’re not going to let them shake us down for a quick settlement.”  

According to a news source, a second lawsuit was filed in August in Los Angeles Superior Court by a former server and a bartender at Pizzeria Mozza. They claim that the defendants take 5 percent of the employees’ tips, refuse to allow workers to take rest and meal breaks and do not pay wages promptly when employees are terminated. See DNAinfo.com, Forbes.com, July 30, 2010; The Los Angeles Times and Courthouse News Service, August 17, 2010.