Ex-Mazzone employee files suit over withheld tips
[From Gazette Newspaper of May 4, 2016]
By John Cropley May 3, 2016
ALBANY — A former employee of Prime at Saratoga National is suing Mazzone Management, saying the catering and restaurant giant illegally withheld tips and failed to pay overtime wages.
Attorneys for Julio A. Olvera of Saratoga Springs — who worked for Mazzone as a server and bartender from 2009 to 2010 and 2013 to 2015 — are seeking class-action status in the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, saying there are at least 50 other people who were treated similarly.
The lawsuit centers on three alleged practices by Mazzone Management in its catering operation and at its numerous restaurants across the Capital Region:
- Withholding 1 percent of tips paid by restaurant customers who had ordered a glass of wine and 3 percent of tips on purchase of a bottle of wine.
- Adding a 20 percent “service charge” to catering bills that customers might reasonably assume was a gratuity for service workers paid hourly wages, but which was not then passed along to the workers.
- Failing to pay 1.5 times the hourly wage to employees who worked more than 40 hours per week.
These actions, the lawsuit charges, violate both New York Labor Law and the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act.
In a statement, Mazzone Hospitality declined to comment on the allegations because they are an ongoing legal matter. “For more than 30 years, Mazzone Hospitality has operated its restaurants and catering divisions with the highest level of integrity,” the statement said. “We take these allegations very seriously and will continue to comply with all federal and state regulations.”
Named as defendants are Mazzone Management Group Ltd. and Mazzone Management Inc.; four Mazzone restaurants, Tala Bistro, 677 Prime, Prime at Saratoga National and Aperitivo Bistro; and two leaders of the operation, father and son Angelo and Matthew Mazzone, the owner and chief operating officer, respectively.
Fleischman Law Firm of Manhattan, representing Olvera, said the amount of money in question, counting the other potential plaintiffs if class-action status is granted, is in excess of $5 million. The lawsuit seeks the unpaid compensation; doubled damages as provided for under state and federal statute; interest; and attorney fees and costs.
The firm did not return a call seeking comment today. But the lawsuit offers some details of the allegations:
- When Olvera questioned the 1 percent and 3 percent tip withholding, he was told to speak with Sheila Burke, Mazzone Hospitality’s vice president of restaurants. She told him it was required to maintain Mazzone’s wine program.
- Olvera worked at events catered by Mazzone, at which employees of other restaurants operated by the company told him tips on wine were partially withheld there as well.
- Customer gratuities for employees earning less than minimum wage must be passed entirely along to the employees.
In its statement, Mazzone did not address the allegations directly, but said its employees are crucial to the company.
“Mazzone Hospitality truly values the contributions our employees have made towards our success, as well as their hard work and dedication to the company,” it said. “We maintain a steadfast commitment to our staff and will continue to provide our guests with the outstanding service and experience synonymous with Mazzone Hospitality.”