Serendipity 3 Reaches Settlement with Former Workers Alleging Unfair Practices
The Upper East Side eatery, Serendipity 3, is set to pay former workers a settlement totaling $975,000. The famous restaurant located at 225 E. 60th Street, which has been featured in many films and is known for holding the Guinness World Record for a cheeseburger costing $295 and an ice cream sundae selling for $25,000, has been accused of underpaying its workers. The two-year lawsuit originally brought forth by plaintiff, Irwing Velandia, was finalized in a settlement approved in federal court this month, and each former employee, thirty-three in total, will receive an estimated $20,000 over the next three weeks.
The workers, led by Velandia, had alleged they were forced to share tips with untipped workers and kitchen staff, including ice cream scoopers responsible for preparing its famous sundaes, but who never actually interacted with customers. Velandia said the restaurant’s former owner Steven Bruce also failed to properly notify his employees that he would automatically apply a tip credit to their wages and failed to pay both regular and overtime wages in accordance with current federal and New York City laws.
The ever so glamorous restaurant had forced tipped employees to give ice cream scoopers between $10 and $20 per shift, according to court documents. This requirement violated the state’s labor law, which indicates only tipped workers are entitled to such compensation. On behalf of himself and the other employees, Velandia filed seeking an award of unpaid wages, damages, notice penalties, and costs associated with litigation.
The other issues mentioned in court documents included former workers being reprimanded for customer walkouts and cashier shortfalls. They were also paid just $20 to $25 a day for a week-long mandatory training, requiring eight hours a day of their time. When broken out into an hourly wage, this meant receiving only $3 per hour each day.
The restaurant is under new ownership, according to one manager. The settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution of the lawsuit said Judge Alison J. Nathan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, appointed by Barack Obama, who based the monetary judgment in part on former workers’ estimate that their maximum recovery could be as much as $1,105,734.95 if they were to win at trial.
“The workers at Serendipity have gotten their just desserts,” said their attorney, Louis Pechman of Pechman Law Group, after the settlement was announced. Louis Pechman, Vivianna Morales, and Gregory Slotnick with Pechman Law Group PLLC in New York represented the workers.
William Cusack and Justin Guilfoyle with Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP in New York and Kenneth Small in New York represented Serendipity 3.
The famous New York restaurant has been featured in One Fine Day, Serendipity, and Trust the Man, among others. The former owner, Bruce, has been featured in several photos posting online in which he is standing with some of his most famous customers, including Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, Zac Efron, and Vanessa Hudgens. Some of the destination spot’s sundaes require 48-hour notice to prepare. There is no indication that the ambiance will change now that it is under new ownership.