Award-winning chef Jose Andres has been hit with a class action lawsuit alleging that workers at his New York City food hall Mercado Little Spain are being cheated out of wages. According to the lawsuit, filed in New York federal court by a former bartender at Andres’ Hudson Yards eatery, Andres pays his service employees sub-minimum wages and incorrect overtime wages, improperly shares their pooled tips with non-service employees, and denies them spread-of-hours pay, all in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law.
In the wage theft lawsuit, the bartender alleges that she was only paid the tipped minimum wage ($10/hour in New York City) for work that should have been paid at the full minimum wage ($15/hour in New York City for companies with 11 or more employees) according to the New York Labor Law. The lawsuit further alleges that Mercado Little Spain did not pay her the proper overtime rate of $17.50/hour (1 ½ x minimum wage) for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek or correct spread-of-hours pay (one hour at the minimum wage) when her shifts spanned over ten hours. In addition, the lawsuit claims that pooled tips were shared with non-service employees, such as bar backs, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Attorneys for the workers are seeking unpaid wages and overtime pay, attorneys’ fees and additional damages.
This is the second lawsuit against Mercado Little Spain since it opened in March 2019. A former pastry chef sued for discrimination in June, claiming she was hired sight-unseen, but then fired because she was a woman. Chef Jose Andres was awarded a 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Obama and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his humanitarian efforts around the world.
Photo Credits: Alex Staniloff/Eater NY