If there's a moral to this story, it must be this: Even for a restaurateur, it's hard to score a free lunch.
Not even a discounted one for famous chef Michael White, his partner Chris Gannon and their Altamarea Group if waiters at the prominent Italian Midtown restaurant Alto in New York City prevail on their lawsuit. The waiters allege that the Group, which owns the Alto, owes them unpaid wages and violated multiple state and federal labor laws over a period of several years.
The waiters' complaint states that they were forced to share tips with a general manager, an exaction which is against the law. It further claims that Altamarea broke a federal law that allows employers to pay workers who receive tips a lower wage than employees who do not collect gratuities. That law provides, however, that a condition for paying the tipped employees less is that they be allowed to retain their earned gratuities, and the waiters maintain that this wasn't the case, owing to the forced sharing with the general manager.
New York state law also requires employers to pay for an extra hour of work whenever an employee works 10 hours or more in one day, and the waiters claim that Altamarea also violated this law. Further still, they allege that, although they were required to buy and maintain work uniforms, the company illegally deducted wages from them to pay for the uniforms and clean them.
The lawsuit might possibly be certified as a class-action suit that will cover all wait staff and other service workers who were employed at the restaurant between August 30, 2004, and the date of the suit's final judgment.
Related Resource: www.wsj.com "Waiters File Suit Against Pasta King Michael White" August 31, 2010