Cipriani Says Lawsuit Is a ‘Desperate Attempt’

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Photo: Shanna Ravindra

Cipriani’s rep, Matthew Hiltzik, has now given us a statement about the lawsuit filed by banquet workers who claim the company stiffed them out of a service charge. Writes Hiltzik:

Cipriani has not seen the complaint, but based on the misinformed statements made by Plaintiffs’ counsel, it seems like a desperate attempt to conjure up the same claims that were dismissed several years ago by the State’s Highest Court. Cipriani has been ahead of the curve in clearly notifying its customers that the service charge, which is a catering industry standard, is not a gratuity and is not paid to the staff. The Plaintiffs are employed by a staffing agency which is independently owned and operated from Cipriani.

What’s more, Cipriani’s representation kindly sent us a copy of a clause in the banquet contract that it says Cipriani has used since 2003, which states the following.

A mandatory Service Charge in the amount equal to twenty-three percent (23%) of the total food and beverage charge for the Event will added to the account of the Patron, and Patron agrees to pay such amount. The Service Charge is not a gratuity and is subject to applicable sales taxes. Patron is not obligated to pay gratuities to the wait staff for the Event.

Justin M. Swartz, attorney for the workers, says he has a copy of a 2008 contract that mentions nothing about the charge being separate from a gratuity, and he says that workers observed signs at Cipriani events that instructed diners not to tip. He also isn’t impressed by the argument that Cipriani uses a staffing company, since he says that, in the years since Cipriani won the aforementioned, prior lawsuit, the company has taken control of its staffing company. He claims that company now serves Cipriani exclusively.

“Cipriani can’t have it both ways,” Schwartz tells us. “They can’t have control over the workers and control over the staffing companies, and at the same time insulate themselves from New York labor law liability.” Schwartz is confident that, in using the recent case that World Yacht workers brought and won, he’ll be able to prevail.

Earlier: Cipriani Hit With Another Lawsuit