Chef settles New York suit over tips for $1.75 million

NEW YORK Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:23am EDT

A waiter is seen at a hotel restaurant in a publicity photo. REUTERS/Vismedia

A waiter is seen at a hotel restaurant in a publicity photo.

Credit: Reuters/Vismedia

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Celebrity French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has agreed to settle a lawsuit over tips filed by waiters at his swank New York restaurants for $1.75 million, court papers say.

Vongerichten, who owns restaurants in London, Paris and Shanghai as well as the Michelin-awarded Jean Georges in Manhattan, agreed to the payout after eight former waiters sued on behalf of all employees working at his New York restaurants Jean Georges, Spice Market, Perry Street, JoJo and 66.

The waiters claimed the restaurants deprived them of tips by sharing them with managers and not paying them for all hours worked. The lawsuit is one of the highest-profile cases in a spate of similar suits filed against New York restaurants in past years for cheating employees out of tips.

The settlement of $1.75 million includes more than $583,000 in lawyers' fees, according to settlement papers filed last week that still await final approval by a federal judge in Manhattan federal court.

The remaining $1.14 million would be divided up among staff who worked at the restaurants during certain periods.

Plaintiffs' lawyers said they could not comment on the settlement, and a lawyer for Vongerichten also declined comment.

The settlement papers said all the restaurants denied wrongdoing and that they had complied with labor laws, but settled for a variety of reasons including the risk of the outcome of ligation.

Other high-profile restaurants sued by waiters and former staff for stealing tips and cheating on wages include Pastis, the Robert De Niro co-owned Nobu New York, and hip-hop star Jay Z's nightspot.

(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Walsh)

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