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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Mario Batali Settles Fight Over Staff Wages

(CN) - Celebrity chef Mario Batali will pay $5.25 million to settle a class action with staff who says the restaurateur skimmed their tips for serving wine and alcohol.

Eleven named plaintiffs sued Batali and Joseph Bastianich, who employed them as waiters and bartenders at eight New York restaurants: Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa, Otto, and Tarry Lodge.

The employees sued in 2010 Manhattan Federal Court, alleging violations of New York Labor Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

They claimed the defendants took up to 5 percent of each shift's wine and alcohol sales from the tip pool, unlawfully took a "tip credit," paid less than minimum wage and failed to pay spread-of-hours pay when they worked more than 10 hours in a day, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum of law in support of their motion for approval of the settlement.

The settlement is subject to approval by the court.

Batali recently was embroiled in another controversy involving inflammatory statements he made about bankers.

At a panel sponsored by Time magazine, Batali said "the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys."

Asked by Forbes reporter Jeff Bercovici to elaborate after the panel was over, Batali said, "The way people change lives, I do think bankers change lives as much as a repressive autocrat. But, that said, it was more direct."

He apologized the next day, after financial industry executives called for a boycott of his restaurants.

Batali has been featured on several Food Network shows, including "Iron Chef America" and "Molto Mario." He most recently was featured on "Spain ... On the Road Again," a food and travel show produced by PBS that featured actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

The plaintiffs are represented by Rachel Bien, with Outten Golden in New York City.

Follow @davejourno
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