Le Cirque the Latest New York Restaurant Facing Class-Action Labor Litigation

The New York Post and other sources have been abuzz regarding the recent class action lawsuit against Le Cirque, the iconic establishment that has distinguished the Upper East Side since 1974. Famous clients such as Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen, and Howard Stern have helped catapult the restaurant to fame, but pending litigation may tarnish the eatery's reputation.

The lawsuit, in which over 100 past and present staffers are eligible to participate, alleges that the illustrious restaurant paid its workers less than minimum wage while charging exorbitant prices to its customers.

The New York Post reported on this case in a recent article, ‘Exploited’ Le Cirque staff bring lawsuit against owner. Likewise, Eater and The Daily Meal discussed the matter in "Le Cirque Slapped with Wage Violations Lawsuit."

New York employment attorney, D. Maimon Kirschenbaum of Joseph & Kirschenbaum, initiated the lawsuit. (In 2009, he filed a related wage and hour case on behalf of Le Cirque’s catering staff.) According to the lawsuit, the restaurant engaged in illegal compensation practices, such as “skimming” servers’ tips into managers’ pay, withholding overtime, and paying an hourly wage less than the state minimum.

The representative plaintiff, Elvis Pena, and other complainants are seeking compensation for the wages Le Cirque failed to pay them. This includes overtime pay for weeks during which workers put in more than 40 hours.

Kirschenbaum has gained notoriety among New York restaurateurs for pursuing litigation against establishments failing to comply with state and federal labor laws. Successful lawsuits against industry giants such as Nobu, Joe Bastianich, and Mario Batali have earned him the nickname “scourge of restaurateurs.” With this most recent case, Kirschenbaum’s reputation as a “giant slayer” will likely continue to grow.