A former server for the Mallozzi Group has accused the Rotterdam-based restaurant and catering business of cheating its servers out of more than $1 million worth of tips over the last two years, possibly more.
The accusation was lodged in a 12-page class action complaint filed March 29 in Albany County Supreme Court by Ryan Picard, of Albany County. Picard was employed as a Mallozzi’s server for most of 2011 and all of 2012; he claims that a mandatory 20 percent “service personnel charge” tacked onto customer’s bills was never distributed to him and at least 100 other servers.
Employees were apparently paid a flat hourly rate, according to the suit, and were told by Mallozzi management that when a customer asked if they received tips, to respond that they did.
“Mallozzi’s and all of our companies adhere to all of the New York Labor Law and its guidelines with the utmost strictness,” said co-owner Bobby Mallozzi Thursday afternoon. “But that doesn’t prevent former disgruntled employees from making wrongful accusations or claims. I want to be clear that this lawsuit has absolutely no merit, and we will vigorously fight it.”
The Mallozzi family has been a household name since 1965 when they opened the Villa Italia bakery shop in Schenectady. Over the decades, the family has opened restaurants and catering operations all over the region — from Treviso by Mallozzi’s in Albany to the Clubhouse at the Western Turnpike Golf Course in Guilderland, among others.
The class action suit was filed by New York City-based firms Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP and Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP; they are representing Picard and all servers employed by Mallozzi’s in the last six years.
Citing the 2008 New York Court of Appeals case Samiento v. World Yacht Inc., the suit quotes court opinion as holding that any charge labeled as a gratuity cannot be accepted by the employer and should be distributed to the employee who provided the service.
State labor law
It goes on to cite New York Labor Law, which says “A charge purported to be a gratuity must be distributed in full as gratuities to the service employees or food service workers who provided the service.”
It would have been understandable, the suit continued, had Mallozzi’s filed a wage notice that made it reasonably clear to a customer that the charge was not a gratuity.
Bobby Mallozzi referred all comment to Mallozzi’s vice president of operations, Jeanette Bowers. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Picard and his attorneys believe that damages are in excess of $1 million, not including interest, costs and fees. They are hoping to recover unpaid wages, attorneys’ fees, costs, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.
Nine defendants were named in the suit, including co-owners John and Joseph Mallozzi.
The others were Bigsbee Enterprises, Inc., which does business as Mallozzi’s Restaurant in Rotterdam; Fairway View LLC, which does business as The Clubhouse at Western Turnpike Golf Course in Guilderland; JRC of Rotterdam, LLC; Golden Toque, Inc.; Mallozzi Distributing LLC, which does business at the Colonie Golf & Country Club in Voorheesville; Morelli Importers and Distributors LLC; and the Mallozzi Group LLC, which provides catering services at the Italian American Community Center in Albany. All have offices at 1930 Curry Rd. in Rotterdam.