By Rebecca Henely
A waiter from Astoria and a Woodside bartender filed a class-action lawsuit in Manhattan federal court Friday against a restaurant co-owned by New York Mets player Carlos Beltran, alleging the eatery underpaid them while they worked there.
The 21-page suit is aimed at seeking restitution for present and past workers at the Puerto Rican restaurant Sofrito and its sister restaurant Sazon, both of which are in Manhattan and run by the 400 Restaurant Group Corp. Sofrito, on East 57th Street, opened in 2006 and Sazon, at 105 Reade St., followed three years later in 2009.
An employee at Sofrito said the restaurant had no comment at this time.
Kevin Rivera of Astoria and Dayana Depena of Woodside allege in the suit that while they worked with the restaurants they were not paid proper wages.
Both Rivera, who worked at Sofrito as a waiter at various times between 2007 and April 2011, and Depena, who worked as a bartender at both Sofrito and Sazon from 2009 until February 2011, claim they were paid $35 per shift no matter how long they worked, had their tips and service charges redistributed to other employees not entitled to tips and had money deducted from their pay for mistakes or customer walkouts.
The suit also alleges the 400 Restaurant Group Corp., Sazon Inc. and restaurant owners Genaro Morales and Benjamin Olan, who was head of personnel, did not properly track their employees’ wages. It accuses the corporation and its representatives of doing so willfully and intentionally.
“Defendants were aware or should have been aware that the practices described in this class action complaint were unlawful,” attorney Brian Schaffer said in court papers on behalf of Rivera and Depena. He is with the Manhattan firm of Fitapelli & Schaffer LLP,
Sofrito is described as a “posh Latin hot spot” in the suit.
“Known for attracting A-list celebrities from all boroughs, Sofrito is frequently touted on the New York Post’s Page Six for celebrity sightings, such as Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony,” Schaffer said in court papers.
The Post reported Beltran got involved with the restaurant after eating many meals there. He eventually ended up reaching out to Morales and bought a share in the business, the newspaper said.
Rivera and Depena asked for an injunction requiring the corporation to pay them and all employees as part of the class-action suit their required wages, attorneys’ fees and other relief, court papers said. The sum of this will be determined at trial, but the company was supposed to pay $7.15 per hour for all hours worked from Jan. 1, 2007, to July 24, 2009, and $7.25 per hour for all hours worked between July 25, 2009, to the present time, court papers said.
Beltran, who has been playing for the Mets since 2005, became co-owner of the restaurant in August 2010, the suit said. Schaffer did not name Beltran as a defendant in the suit.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.