Attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum Interviewed by Bill O'Shaughnessy of WVOX to Discuss Wage Hour Case Against Famous New York Eatery, Le Cirque

Radio station WVOX recently featured a lengthy interview with attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum to discuss a high profile wage and hour case against the restaurant, Le Cirque. According to the plaintiffs, wait staff at the restaurant had to hand over tips illegally to management. Click here to hear the audio of the full interview.

Host Bill O'Shaughnessy talked with attorney Kirschenbaum about a fascinating range of topics. In addition to discussing the rationale for the lawsuit against Le Cirque, O'Shaughnessy asked Kirschenbaum about his opinion about how much customers should tip and whether he eats at any of the restaurants he sues. (Kirschenbaum responded that he only eats at kosher restaurants).

O'Shaughnessy also brought up the parallels between the life stories of plaintiff Elvis Pena and Sirio Maccioni, the owner of Le Cirque, to which Kirschenbaum wryly responded: “if Sirio Maccioni was in Elvis Pena’s shoes, and someone stole his tips… he would figure out a way to get it back."

Here's a transcript of a few choice exchanges from their conversation:

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "What’s going on with Le Cirque?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "Le Cirque makes waitstaff share tips with Captains, who are essentially their managers… the New York state legislature doesn’t like [that] very much, because it thinks that that kind of system is rife for abuse."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "You've gone after a lot of famous restaurants in the Big Apple… What do they do wrong?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "A lot of them have done exactly what we are alleging Le Cirque did, which is require wait staff to share tips with management."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "Maimon Kirschenbaum, you’ve taken a lot of money from a lot of famous restaurants. Do you usually settle these state cases?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "Yes, we usually settle these cases."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "You're bringing this suit on behalf of Elvis Pena, who worked for a good long time. I'm wondering… isn’t Elvis Pena’s story similar to that of Sirio Maccioni [the] ringmaster of Le Cirque? Do you know the history of Maccioni?

KIRSCHENBAUM: "No, I don’t know it that well, but if Sirio Maccioni… was in Elvis Pena’s shoes, and someone stole his tips… he would figure out a way to get it back."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "Do you ever dine at Le Cirque [or any of the restaurants] that you sue?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "I keep a strictly kosher diet, so I do not dine at any non-kosher establishment."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "If somebody leaves a tip, Mr. Kirschenbaum, who should get that tip? Let’s say your dinner is 100 bucks: you will leave 20%. Is that what people are usually tipped? 20%?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "Somewhere around there, yes."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "Okay, who should get that 20 bucks?"

KIRSCHENBAUM: "Service employees should not be required to share tips with people that are senior to them, that supervise them, et cetera."

O’SHAUGHNESSY: "Isn’t there sometimes you can’t figure out who to tip -- like the Captain or the waiter? 'Is he a waiter or is he a Captain?' It’s a little confusing."

KIRSCHENBAUM: "Well, it’s not that confusing in a case like this or if the person sets your schedule… bosses you around. It might be confusing vis-à-vis the customer, but it’s not confusing vis-à-vis the system of the restaurant. This guy is management, this guy is not management. For better or for worse, federal and New York law both say that if the guy’s management, whether or not he is serving customers, he cannot share in the tips."


WVOX is a locally-owned and operated station in the N.Y. area, designated as "America's Great Community Station" by the Wall Street Journal. Station president and editorial director William O'Shaughnessy who conducted the interview, is the author of five books on prominent figures in the New York area.