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Mario Batali agrees to $5.25-million tip settlement

Mario Batali, the celebrity TV chef and owner of a string of restaurants, is often seen with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, taste-testing the culinary delights of Spain in their public television series “On the Road Again.”

Batali took a detour, through his lawyers, to New York federal court in Manhattan, where he was sued and accused of cheating workers of part of their tips for serving wine. He and his associate Joseph Bastianich agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle the class-action lawsuit, according to court papers.

Servers at New York restaurants including Babbo, Casa Mono, the Spotted Pig and Tarry Lodge sued in 2010, alleging their employers violated the Fair Labor Standards Act -- in part by pocketing gratuities equal to as much as 5 percent of nightly wine sales.

“Mr. Batali, Mr. Bastianich, and their restaurants unlawfully confiscated a portion of their workers’ hard-earned tips in order to supplement their own profits,” employees said in their complaint.

The settlement agreement, filed March 5, is subject to approval by a federal judge.

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“The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” said Rachel Bien, one of the employees’ lawyers.

Batali got into hot water in November by saying bankers are “not heroes but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating.”

“The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys,” Batali said on a panel sponsored by Time magazine and posted online.

He apologized the next day, after financial industry executives criticized him and called for a boycott of his establishments.


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