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De Niro's restaurants to pay $2.5 mln in tip case

world Updated: Jan 31, 2009 15:34 IST

Actor Robert De Niro's Nobu restaurant chain will settle a lawsuit over tips with waiters and staff at three of his New York establishments for $2.5 million, according to court papers filed on Friday.

The settlement comes after two waiters sued in 2007 on behalf of hundreds of workers at three of the exclusive Japanese restaurants. They said they were forced to share tips with management and the chain failed to pay overtime.

Nobu, which De Niro partly owns with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and others, opened in New York's Tribeca area in 1994. It has since expanded to 16 places around the globe.

The settlement covers Nobu, Nobu 57 and Nobu Next Door, all in New York. Current employees and ex-employees who worked there between August 2001 and August 2008 will receive an average of $3,300 each, court papers said.

De Niro's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Carolyn Richmond, a lawyer for Nobu, said Nobu has a reputation for treating employees well and was looking forward to putting the litigation behind it.

"These are very uncertain economic times and if this class action lawsuit trend continues over procedural nuances concerning the definition of tip pools, New York City will suffer the needless loss of thousands of jobs and small businesses," she said.

Several lawsuits in the past two years have accused New York restaurants, including some owned by celebrities, of wage violations and unfair labor practices.

Among those named in suits were US pop star Justin Timberlake's Southern Hospitality BBQ restaurant, Jay Z's 40/40 Club and Jean Georges owned by French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

"Top Chef" TV show judge Tom Colicchio's Craftbar in New York was sued in December.

Last year Vongerichten agreed to pay $1.75 million after eight waiters filed suit on behalf of all staff at Jean Georges and four of his other New York restaurants.

A hearing to approve the Nobu settlement is set for Feb 6.