Em­ploy­ees sue sushi restau­ra­teur in New York

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - MAURA JUD­KIS

Sushi Nakazawa, the New York restau­rant that fa­mously em­ploys chef Daisuke Nakazawa, was hit with a class-ac­tion wage law­suit Wed­nes­day for al­legedly not pay­ing the min­i­mum wage and mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing tips.

It’s the cap­stone in a year of bad pub­lic­ity for owner Alessan­dro Bor­gognone, who was do­ing dam­age con­trol last De­cem­ber af­ter an­nounc­ing he would open a sec­ond Nakazawa in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Trump ho­tel and in­sult­ing D.C.’s food scene as a “meat and pota­toes” town. In Fe­bru­ary, Esquire won­dered if Bor­gognone was “The most hated restau­ra­teur in Amer­ica.”

Now he’s named in the suit along with Nakazawa — who ap­peared in the doc­u­men­tary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” They are ac­cused of im­prop­erly dis­tribut­ing tips earned by plain­tiffs Treva Willis and Melissa Avis, and other em­ploy­ees. The suit, first re­ported by Grub Street, also calls out the restau­rant for al­legedly fail­ing to pay the le­gally re­quired min­i­mum wage and over­time, and re­port­edly fail­ing to pro­vide re­quired wage no­tices.

Bor­gognone, the suit al­leges, an­nounced he “had been to (sic) gen­er­ous with staff fi­nan­cially, and he stated that he was set­ting new rules for how the restau­rant would be closed and how em­ploy­ees would cash out each night.” He re­struc­tured the com­pany’s tip pool — an agree­ment where servers share their tips with other cus­tomer-fac­ing em­ploy­ees, like bussers — to in­clude em­ploy­ees in man­age­ment and the back of house, in­clud­ing a glass­ware pol­isher. These em­ploy­ees are all in­el­i­gi­ble for tips. A pub­li­cist for the restau­rant de­clined to com­ment on the suit.

The U.S. De­part­ment of La­bor has pro­posed new reg­u­la­tions that would ex­pand the num­ber of em­ploy­ees who would be el­i­gi­ble for a tip pool, and would al­low tips to be fully con­trolled by man­age­ment. Crit­ics of the reg­u­la­tions say they amount to wage theft from ser­vice em­ploy­ees and would per­mit man­agers to in­clude them­selves in the tip pool, giv­ing servers a smaller cut.

Mean­while, Bor­gognone is work­ing to­ward a win­ter 2018 open­ing of his restau­rant in the Trump ho­tel.

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