Batali-Bastianich Lawsuit Goes Class Action; Workers Allege Retaliation

New York Magazine "“ Grub Street New York
May 10, 2011

Several months after Joe Bastianich called bullshit ” on a lawsuit brought by current and former employees of what has now expanded to eight Batali-Bastianich restaurants, a judge has certified the suit for class-action status. Plaintiffs claimed that 4 percent to 4.5 percent of wine sales at the restaurants were deducted from their tip pool. One plaintiff, former Otto server Jeffrey Cutaiar, says managers told him the amount went to the wine program, ” while a general manager told him it went back to the house. ” A bartender at Tarry Lodge heard that the amount went to wine research. Batali and Bastianich had argued that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove the policy was the same across all of their restaurants; however, a district court judge, in the decision you can read below, wrote that there was a reasonable inference that there was a uniform policy across the eight restaurants. ” But here’s the most interesting part of Judge Richard J. Holwell’s memorandum.

Plaintiffs allege that they have been subject to retaliation since the filing of this lawsuit, so it is necessary as a corrective measure to post a notice in the restaurants that this suit is  pending. Among other forms of retaliation, Plaintiffs allege that Bastianich has referred to this lawsuit as bullshit ” in the press and held an employee meeting during which he stated that plaintiffs’ lawyers, rather than employees, would benefit from the suit (Bien Decl., Ex. LL) and that he would fight employees bringing this suit (Bien Decl., Ex. AA). Capsolas also claims that someone wrote the word rat ” on her locker at work, and she has attached a photograph of the offending graffiti. (Bien Decl., Ex. AA.) Defendants argue that this notice is unnecessary.

The judge has ruled that a note won’t have to be posted in Batali’s restaurants, but current and former employees can expect to receive an invitation to join the lawsuit in the mail.