A judge has ruled that Carmela Lanzetta, a former waitress who filed a lawsuit against Little Italy pasta and cigar den Florio’s in 2008, is entitled to almost $128,000 in damages. According to a verdict filed yesterday, which you can read below, Lanzetta (an Italian immigrant who had been working in the industry for a dozen years when she came to Florio’s in 2004) agreed to work about 60 hours per week without receiving a wage, and was instead paid out of the tip pool. Two weeks into the job, she asked her employers, Ralph Amoruso and his son Larry, to put her on the books, and according to the judge they worked out the following system in lieu of paying her an hourly wage.
Ordinarily, a restaurant employee’s withholding taxes are deducted from her wages, but Lanzetta did not receive a wage. To avoid having to pay her one, Ralph agreed to put her on the books if she would cover the taxes with her tip earnings. She agreed she would and made these payments in weekly installments, even when she was away on vacation. (Id. 8-10, 12-13). For almost two years thereafter, the payments were $140 per week, an amount that corresponded with the $600 she directed Florio’s to report as her weekly tip income. During the final two years of her employment, she declared $700 per week and her weekly payments to Ralph increased accordingly, to $160. (Id. 13-14). Defendants put Lanzetta into the Paychex system and recorded a wage amount that they repeated every week, resulting in the payment of withholding taxes. While her payments were for $140, defendants remitted $111.85 per week in taxes. When the payments increased to $160, they remitted $158.29. (a qenerallv DX A). Defendants kept the excess.
Lanzetta never denied that the tip money was good, and the Amorusos insist they paid her well above the minimum wage. But they weren’t able to cough up satisfactory paperwork to that effect, and the judge ruled that the defendants owed her $19,813 in minimum wage and overtime under the Labor Law, $48,384 in minimum and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, plus still more in damages, premiums, and unlawfully retained tips. See all the details in the order handed down yesterday.