Workers assigned to provide in-seat food service to field level seating at the Yankee Stadium filed a class action lawsuit against the companies which provide catering services at Yankee Stadium. The lawsuit, filed in New York federal court on May 9, 2011, alleges the misappropriation of mandatory tips charged to patrons.
The lawsuit alleges that when field level patrons arrive at their seats, a menu is located in the cup-holder directly in front of their seats. The menu offers food and beverages, such as beer and hot dogs. The menu states that, “A 20% service charge will be added to the listed prices. Additional gratuity is at your discretion.” For example, a patron who orders a draft beer for $10.50, is in fact paying $12.60, after a 20% service charge has been added. The servers are responsible to interact with patrons and take food and beverage orders.
The lawsuit claims that the caterers misappropriated gratuities from workers by retaining 20% mandatory service charges paid by patrons, in addition to the cost of food and beverages, while simultaneously leading their customers to believe that these service charges were gratuities to be paid in their entirety to in-seat food service workers. The employees contend that the food service workers did not receive any of the 20% service charges. The Complaint notes that this practice was held by the New York Court of Appeal’s decision in Samiento v. World Yacht Inc., 10 N.Y.3d 70 (2008). The Court of Appeals in Samiento v. World Yacht Inc. stated, “We conclude that a charge that is not a voluntary payment may be a ‘charge purported to be a gratuity’ within the meaning of the New York Labor Law statute.”