What’s It Worth to You?

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – Waiting the best tables and getting time off work requires paying managers at Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group sometimes hundreds of dollars per night, a class action claims.
     Mario Viggiani, who has worked at the Las Vegas restaurant since 2005, says that every shift he works, he must “pay the ‘door’ a portion of his tips” to get “preferential customers, tables or shifts.”
     If he needs a day off, Viggiani says, “his manager would ask: ‘What’s it worth to you?'”
     Viggiani claims he was “forced to pay assistant and general managers” up to “$200 a night in tips on busy nights” and about $65 per night on average nights.
     During a staff meeting, someone asked the general manager how workers “were supposed to report the tips they were forced to share with management to the IRS,” and the manager replied: “It’s a gray area,” according to the complaint.
     Viggiani claims he knows workers at the restaurant group’s Miami outlet who also are forced to pay portions of their tips to managers for preferred shifts and tables and to take time off work.
     He estimates more than 100 wait staff are similarly aggrieved and qualify as members of the class action.
     Viggiani claims Smith & Wollensky violates Nevada Revised Statute 608.100, which states: “It is unlawful for any employer to require an employee to rebate, refund or return any part of the wage, salary or compensation earned and paid to the employee.”
     While the action cites Nevada law, Viggiani says the restaurant group’s policy requiring “tipped employees rebate, refund or return a portion of the tips they earned” is a “company-wide” policy that “affects all tipped employees at all Smith & Wollensky locations.” He claims the policy is “willful, malicious and in reckless disregard” of workers’ rights.
     The lawsuit, filed Sept. 25, seeks class certification, restitution and punitive damages for wage and employment violations, plus costs and fees.
     Viggiani is represented by Andrew Rempfer, of Henderson.
     Smith & Wollensky opened in New York City in 1977 and claims to be a “prime spotting place for local celebrities, political figures and even a few movie stars” and “long has been considered a premier dining destination,” according to the company’s website. The site lists nine outlets, in Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami Beach, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, D.C., Columbus and two in Boston. The original New York City outlet is owned by Fourth Wall Restaurants.

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