ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - A class action claims an upstate New York restaurant and caterer cheated its workers out of more than $1 million in tips.
The defendants added a 20 percent "service personnel charge" to all its banquet hall bills, but servers never saw dime one of it, lead plaintiff Ryan Picard claims in Albany County Supreme Court.
Picard claims the family-owned businesses ran the game for 6 years, at the expense of more than 100 workers.
Named as defendants are six entities associated with the Mallozzi family of suburban Schenectady, who operate bakery, restaurant, hotel and catering businesses in Albany and Schenectady counties.
Defendants John and Joseph Mallozzi run the day-to-day operations, which date back to the opening of an Italian bakery in the 1960s.
The family offers banquet services at country club and golf course clubhouses, and at the Italian American Community Center in Albany, which a local business newspaper ranked as among the leading meeting and banquet venues in the area.
Picard, who worked as a Mallozzi server for nearly two years, claims the defendants violated New York's tip-appropriation law.
The law says employers cannot "demand or accept, directly or indirectly, any part of the gratuities received by an employee, or retain any part of a gratuity or of any charge purported to be a gratuity for an employee."
Picard says servers were paid a flat hourly rate and got none of the surcharge.
A "reasonable customer" would have believed the surcharge to be a gratuity, he says in the complaint.
And, Picard says, if customers asked if the waiters and waitresses got tips, they were ordered "to respond, as instructed by defendants, that they did receive tips."
"By defendants' knowing or intentional demand for, acceptance of, and/or retention of the mandatory charges paid by customers when contracting with defendants, when such customers were led to believe that such mandatory charges would be paid to plaintiff, defendants have willfully violated" New York law, the complaint states.
Picard seeks class certification, restitution of the tips, and costs.
He also seeks an injunction barring the Mallozzi businesses from continuing the surcharge.
Picard is represented by D. Maimon Kirschenbaum with Joseph & Kirschenbaum, of New York City.Here are the defendants: Bigsbee Enterprises Inc. dba Mallozzi's Restaurant; Fairway View LLC dba The Clubhouse at Western Turnpike; JRC of Rotterdam LLC; Golden Toque Inc.; Mallozzi Distributing LLC dba Mallozzi's at Colonie Country Club; Morelli Importers and Distributors LLC; The Mallozzi Group LLC; John Mallozzi; and Joseph Mallozzi.
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