Fifteen Immigrant Workers Join Lawsuit Against Devi Restaurant
Entire front of the house staff join as plaintiffs in action for unpaid wages against Manhattan fine dining restaurant
New York, NY—Today, 11 Bangladeshi, Latino and Eastern European immigrant workers at Devi, an upscale Indian restaurant in Manhattan, joined four other plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the restaurant and its owner Rakesh Aggarwal to end labor law violations, including illegal tip confiscation and minimum wage and overtime violations. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Pryor Cashman LLP, which represent the workers as co-counsel, have amended the original complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in April, to include 15 plaintiffs—Devi’s entire front staff of waiters, runners, and bussers and one worker from the kitchen. Aggarwal is also the owner of the popular New York City Indian restaurant chain Baluchis.
According to the complaint, Aggarwal unlawfully retained 20 percent of all credit card tips earned by the workers and allowed Devi managers to collect a portion of those tips. Further, the complaint alleges that Aggarwal failed to pay his employees the minimum wage and also the overtime rate for hours worked above 40 hours a week. When a group of workers made complaints to Aggarwal regarding his labor practices, he retaliated by reducing their pay. Under federal law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who report labor law violations.
AALDEF Staff Attorney Tushar J. Sheth said, “It is imperative that these workers receive just compensation for their long hours of labor. Restaurant workers heavily depend on their tips to earn a decent living since they do not make enough from wages alone. It is illegal for the employer to take any amount of gratuity away from the workers. This money belongs to them.”
Joshua Zukerberg and other attorneys from Pryor Cashman LLP, a 44 year old law firm based in New York, are representing the workers. He said, “There is no defense for these types of practices. The federal and New York wage and hour laws provide a minimum and basic set of protections for hard-working and under-paid employees, like the plaintiffs in this action. Employers in these cases are well-advised to promptly resolve the claims.”
Plaintiff Parvez Ali, a busser and waiter at Devi, said, “We’ve tried to talk to the owner to make him change things at the restaurant and allow us to keep our tips, but he refused us. We hope that through this lawsuit, we can change the conditions at the restaurants and be paid fairly.
Plaintiff Patricio Gonzalez, a busser at Devi, said, I hope that we can achieve justice in this case. It is wrong that Mr. Aggarwal is keeping a portion of our tips. We work hard at our jobs and we should be paid fairly.
Through this action, the workers seek to recover unpaid wages and tips as well as punitive damages.