Workers at celebrity chef Mario Batali's New York City eatery Del Posto have settled a lawsuit against the restaurant with an agreement that gives them $1.15 million, as well as paid vacation and sick days for them and fellow employees.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, an advocacy group that had been working with the 31 employees and has targeted restaurants over their employment practices before, announced Monday that a judge had approved the settlement. The workers had sued in October 2010, accusing the restaurant of depriving them of some of their tips and overtime. In announcing the settlement, the group said Del Posto and its principals denied the workers' allegations.
A lawyer for Del Posto declined to comment on the settlement
Jonathan Bernstein, a lawyer for the workers, said the agreement now gives all non-managerial employees at Del Posto, not just the plaintiffs, three paid sick days and five paid vacation days per year. He said the settlement also said that workers who get vacation or sick days approved aren't responsible for finding people to work for them in their absence.
"It's a very big step up," he said, adding that having no paid sick or vacation days is common for workers in the industry.
Batali's Manhattan restaurants also include Babbo and Bar Jamon. The settlement only applies to Del Posto.
The advocacy group said Del Posto had also agreed to work with its High Road Employer program, which looks at improving restaurant working conditions.
"There's this emerging recognition that sustainable food practices include not only well-sourced ingredients but also sustainable labor practices," Bernstein said. "Del Posto wants to be an industry leader not only in terms of the quality of food but the quality of its labor practices."
In March, Batali and his business partner Joseph Bastianich settled another lawsuit, agreeing to pay $5.25 million to another pool of workers who alleged that some of their tips had been held back. That group of workers included up to 1,100 employees.