The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group is in legal trouble again, this time thanks to a lawsuit filed against Park Avenue Café. The class-action suit filed by two captains and a waiter claims the restaurant — currently known as Park Avenue Winter — violated wage laws by forcing them to pool their tips with non-tipped employees like dishwashers, expediters, and coffee makers. Attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum tells us that the plaintiffs are expected to be joined by others in the next few days and will soon bring a separate complaint accusing assistant manager Santiago Pasentez of discriminating against the restaurant’s Bengali and Bangladeshi employees.
Salim Shahriar, who says he worked at Park Avenue for four years before Pasentez assumed management duties in the spring, tells us his hours were cut in half by the new manager. “He clearly said there are too many Bengali and Bangladeshi working there, [and] we need to get rid of them,” Shahriar says. “He pretty much made all the people from that area miserable by indirectly telling them to leave.” Shahriar claims he complained to the general manager about this (and about the tip pool that Pasentez instituted), but to no avail. With reduced hours affecting Shahriar's health insurance and ability to support his family, he left the restaurant.
Pasentez hasn’t returned a message we left with Park Avenue Winter during lunch service, but while we wait for him to call, you can take a look at the minimum-wage complaint.