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Jun 23, 2010 11:26 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former employees file suit against Water Mill restaurant over forced tip-pooling and other practices

Jun 23, 2010 11:26 AM

Two waiters and two busboys who used to work at the Trata East restaurant in Water Mill have filed a lawsuit against the company charging unlawful tip-pooling, appropriation of a portion of their tips, and depriving waitstaff of tips they had earned, among other things.

Ezequiel Sierra, Pawel Korta, Pluto Leitao and Genaro Cervantes, residents of Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn, worked at the Greek restaurant on Montauk Highway in the summers of 2008 and 2009. They are seeking to recover unpaid minimum wages, unlawfully expropriated tips and unpaid overtime.

The plaintiffs, who are represented by Louis Pechman of Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP of Manhattan, are also accusing Trata of failing to keep accurate records of hours worked, failing to pay the minimum hourly wage, failing to pay employees for all time worked beyond 40 hours per week, diverting waitstaff’s tips to managers who were ineligible to participate in the tip pool and failure to pay spread-of-hours compensation of one hour’s pay at the minimum wage for each day in which the workday was more than 10 hours.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, last Thursday, June 17, and is against Orama Inc., the owner of Trata Estiatorio in Manhattan, and Orama II Inc., the owner of Trata East in Water Mill. The two restaurants are described in the suit as being a “single and joint employer” that have unified operations and share common management, ownership and control. Other defendants are owners of Trata and Trata East, Christos Giorgiou and Tim Salouros, who are described in the suit as having “authority regarding the pay practices” at the restaurants. As of yesterday, Wednesday, neither Mr. Giorgiou nor Mr. Salouros had responded to a request for comment.

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Let them take it up with the Dept. of labor. Something tells me they probably are not here in this country legally, thats why they have to hire some "slip and fall" ambulance chasers. I would suspect they would have a better chance @"fair" employment in Queens or where ever they are from. I smell more than garlic coming from this story.
By gallerygirl (29), southampton on Jun 24, 10 2:49 PM
LOL, the Dept. of Labor.... do you even know how claims are processed through them? It is like most Gov. agencies, very inefficient. They will get much quicker results through private counsel.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 24, 10 6:09 PM
Gallerygirl, you are truly the most outwardly racist person posting on these boards. You read an article and then go on to make some broad, ignorant, bigoted assumptions based on what, their names?
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Jun 25, 10 10:54 AM
3 members liked this comment
wow, you sound very prejudice. And you are "ass-uming" they are not here legally.
Go have a drink of tea, and calm down.
By marymare (12), east hampton on Jun 25, 10 12:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow dont hold back gallery girl why dont you make youself a sign and go stand outside the 7 eleven in southampton in the mornings, with you buddy
By ICARE (23), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 24, 10 3:15 PM
Ummm....legal or not, they are still entitled to proper pay and tips for all time worked.
By cat (18), Riverhead on Jun 24, 10 3:16 PM
4 members liked this comment
I'm the last person to cater to illegals if they are even that, but if they have done the work they deserve to get paid regardless of legal status.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 24, 10 6:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
By it never ends... (25), SMITHTOWN on Jun 24, 10 3:26 PM
you must work for free, most people like to get paid.
By ICARE (23), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 24, 10 4:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just curious Gallery Girl, do you think you sound a little bit like a bigot? I mean they couldn't possilbly be US citizens, right? Beause they have unusual names, right? and the lawyer has to be an ambulance chaser because....hhmmmm because they took the case from these "people" that you have deemed "illegal", so they must be crappy right? WOW, you have got to get out of the house......
By teeteeme (11), Water Mill on Jun 24, 10 5:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
That is right ..the Department of Labor have been in the East End many time..enforcing labor law...they have been very clear "You MUST get paid for a job done" it has nothing to do with your status.
1 212.775.2781
Address: 77 Varick Street, 7th Floor
Manhattan, New York, NY 10013
Website: http://www.labor.ny.gov/home

Gallery girl sorry you are so ignorant!!!!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Jun 24, 10 9:36 PM
fine pay them and then prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law for being here illegally
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Jun 25, 10 9:06 AM
Where in the article does it say they are "illegal"? They are people who got screwed and have a right to seek compensation.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Jun 25, 10 10:53 AM
...ah yes... and the strange names of the people that own the restaurants... don't "they" typically run cash restaurant businesses; exploit low-wage labor; few written records, etc? The irony for racists like g-girl is that the race card can easily flip both ways in many cases.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Jun 24, 10 10:26 PM
Let me get this straight ... these guys work at this restaurant in 08' and 09' ... what took them so long ? If you weren't getting paid fairly for a job would you still be there a year later ? Would you still be there a week later ? I woulda bolted ... these fellas should have done the same if they felt they weren't being paid fairly ... I want to hear the restaurants side of the story .
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Jun 24, 10 11:37 PM
they saw the settlement in NYC and figured they could cash in too.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Jun 25, 10 9:07 AM
With this economy to take the abuse as long as you can.......then you have to build the courage and get all the information that you need to follow the case...is not that simple...you need to find other victims...see what their case was...if is solid...you need to have evidences etc ...trust me all of this takes time and many steps.
By Bel (86), southampton on Jun 25, 10 8:19 AM
You are so right!! I have worked in many restuarants over the years and you would not believe what I have seen. Being forced to "tip out the House" or "tip out the manager" or the kitchen (the owners way of making the waitstaff pay the salary of the manager), Having to pay the percentage that the "house" pays the credit card companies if you get a tip on a credit card, but not giving the waitstaff the option to ask for their tips in cash only. (BTW that is illegal too, and alot of restaurants do ...more
By teeteeme (11), Water Mill on Jun 25, 10 2:01 PM
Sounds like a battle of David and Goliath to me, we've all gotta stick up for the little guy right? Working in the restaurant biz is no desk job with a lunch break, to cheat anybody out of 1 nickel earned while busing tables or otherwise is disgusting.
By HarborDad (37), Sag Harbor on Jun 25, 10 12:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
The "so called" employees have not been properly advised by their lawyer. first, the minimum wage for tipped employees is much lower than the standard minimum wage. then, the have to pay the taxes on their tips. so in the end game, these employees will come out with nada since the dept of labor will do an audit of their wages and it will show that they under reported their tipped earnings. waste of time but Press is Press. you can deduct all kinds of fees from wait staff such as tips to the ...more
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Jun 26, 10 1:10 AM
I'm still not buying these guys sticking around for two seasons , if they felt they were underpaid and cheated ... courage or not . Getting paid unfairly ... move on .
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Jun 26, 10 9:54 AM
What does an ambulance chaser hav anything to do with a restaurant? Maybe you meant bread delivery truck chaser?
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jun 26, 10 11:34 AM
If they move on......more and more people are going to be future victims.....send a message now and stop the abuse...from this restaurant and many others!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Jun 27, 10 1:08 PM
Bel ... Fine . Report it and move on ... I can't believe anybody has the time to take that sort of abuse . I wouldn't do it and I am most certain you wouldn't do it either . Two seasons is a long time to realize you are being screwed ... and they should have reported and moved on a long time ago .
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Jun 30, 10 5:21 PM