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"Molto Mario" Agrees to Pay Millions for Alleged FLSA Violations

Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act was a key element in a case involving wine, waiters and well-known chef Mario Batali. The case, which involves more than 1,000 workers who served wine, tended bar and bused tables between 2004 and 2012, has been settled with Batali and other restaurateurs agreeing to pay the workers $5.25 million. The settlement awaits approval by a federal judge.

Batali, star of the PBS series "Spain…on the Road Again" and owner of several New York eateries, came under fire for allegedly taking tips from wine servers at his restaurants. The workers sought certification of their case as a federal class action. They claimed that confiscation of their tips amounted to a violation of the FLSA. According to the plaintiffs, Mario Batali and other restaurateurs took servers' tips in an amount equivalent to up to 5% of nightly wine sales.

Batali's behavior follows his recent public characterization of bankers as "money grubbing." He compared their practices of redistributing wealth to themselves with the practices of Stalin and Hitler. Batali began his career as a dishwasher in New Jersey while he was in college. He first prepared food professionally at a pizzeria, and he eventually served in various kitchen roles in Chelsea, Paris, Provence and San Francisco. In addition to appearing in his PBS series, Batali has also appeared on the Food Network's Iron Chef series and in his own television show, "Molto Mario."

The U.S. Department of Labor provides specific guidance for businesses that employ workers who receive tips. FLSA Training for key employees on these special policies can help restaurants and other companies whose workers receive tips avoid federal class actions and hefty settlements.

Categories: Workplace Compliance
Tags: FLSA

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