Earlier this month, we told you that wage-violations specialist Maimon Kirschenbaum filed a complaint on behalf of Felidia’s employees alleging, among other things, that the restaurant illegally distributed tips and failed to meet minimum-wage requirements. And yesterday, Kirschenbaum sent around a document (the full PDF of which is here) indicating Bastianich offered current employees a lump sum payment in exchange for signing a document indicating the person signing it “unconditionally releases and forever discharges” the restaurant from any legal obligation over “any claims for unpaid tips, wages, gratuities, and/or service or related charges.” In short, it looks like Bastianich is paying people off in exchange for their silence. We reached out to Bastianich’s legal team to see what they had to say.
“Felidia isn’t going to just back down,” says Carolyn Richmond, the attorney representing the restaurant. Richmond didn’t address the document directly — she released a statement to Eater yesterday saying “restaurateurs can’t risk their businesses or their employees livelihoods” — but added that Felidia’s ownership is “comfortable and secure” in the knowledge that it has treated its staff fairly. (No surprises there.) She adds that Kirschenbaum has “recovered a heck of a lot of money for his clients,” but says he and his associates take home one-third of “any so-called settlements, so they’re not sweeping in like Don Quixote.” Richmond adds, “At some point, these tip suits have got to stop.”
Given Kirschenbaum’s success at getting serious results from these suits — most notably that $5.25 million settlement from the Bastianich restaurant group back in March — we’re sure it’s an opinion shared by plenty of restaurateurs around the city.