Employees sue sushi restaurateur in New York
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.