September 24, 2012 –Restaurant workers who are members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) have signed a settlement agreement with their employer, Del Posto Restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Mario Batali. The settlement resolves a 2010 lawsuit alleging lost minimum wage, overtime, spread-of-hours pay, and tip misappropriation; and EEOC charges of race and national origin discrimination and retaliation. The 31 plaintiffs will receive $1.15 million. The settlement is a good-faith, constructive conclusion to a 2-year lawsuit that was part of a larger organizing campaign by workers at Del Posto with the assistance of ROC-NY, a non-profit workers center dedicated to improving conditions in the restaurant industry. Del Posto and its principals have denied all of the workers’ allegations and maintain that they remain committed to ensuring that employees receive all compensation to which they are entitled, including all tips (see article in Wall Street Journal).
ROC-NY has also worked in tandem with Del Posto and its principals to supplement existing workplace policies that improve conditions for all workers at the restaurant, including:
– expansion of paid sick days policies
– a promotions policy
– cultural sensitivity training for management
– expansion of paid vacation policies, & more!
Further, Del Posto has agreed to work together with ROC-NY to become a “High Road Employer” in the industry. ROC-NY’s High Road Program seeks to provide restaurant owners with a path to the high road to profitability in the industry. “What we term as the ‘high road’ refers to ethical employment practices that support better conditions for workers, which in turn benefits employers, consumers, and the community at large,” said Daisy Chung, Executive Director at ROC-NY. “We are very glad that Del Posto will be part of this program.” The settlement marked the resolution of ROC-NY’s 10th workplace justice campaign.
The settlement has also resonated with the sustainable food movement. “While Del Posto has sustainable food sourcing practices, their interest in providing a better workplace for their employees demonstrates their desire to adopt a more comprehensive sustainability model in the food sector,” said Josh Viertel, Executive Director of Slow Food USA. “As an employer that many other restaurant owners look to as a success story, Del Posto’s high road practices will encourage others in the industry to do the same, which will change the lives of more restaurant workers throughout the City.”
The workers were represented by Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis and Levy, Davis & Maher. Del Posto was represented by Littler Mendelson and Fox Rothchild.