Workers Sue Upscale Italian Eatery

Crains NY Business - Emily Laermer
August 31, 2010

Yet another high-profile restaurateur has been sued by his employees.

Chris Cannon’s high-end Italian eatery Alto has been accused of stealing tips and underpaying employees, according to a lawsuit filed by three hourly food service workers.

The employees have accused the midtown restaurant of distributing at least 4% of the servers’ tips to general managers and other employees who are ineligible for gratuities, said Rachel Bien of Outten & Golden, who is representing the plaintiffs.

According to the filing, Arturo Reyes an assistant who has worked at the restaurant since June 2009, and is part of the trio that filed the suit discussed the matter this spring with Mr. Cannon, who acknowledged that the tip misappropriation was unlawful. Mr. Cannon reportedly told Mr. Reyes that if he had a problem with this, then he should file a lawsuit.

Alto 53 is also accused of requiring employees to pay for uniform maintenance, as well as denying wait staff spread-of-hours pay. The class action lawsuit will affect more than 100 employees who have worked at the restaurant since Aug. 30, 2004, and the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, says the filing.

Over half a dozen restaurateurs have been accused of violating labor laws this year, including Terrance Brennan’s Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, Eric Goode’s B Bar and Grill and sandwich shop Bimmy’s.

When people hear about these cases, they learn about their own [possible] violations, and they start asking questions about these things, ” Ms. Bien said.

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