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Colicchio sued over tip policy at restaurants

NEW YORK Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and his Craft Worldwide Holdings company, owner-operators of such upscale restaurant concepts as Craft, Craftbar and Craftsteak, have been sued for alleged labor law violations, a plaintiff's attorney said Friday.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court here on behalf of former Craftbar employee Nessa Rapone, accuses Colicchio and his company of violating state and federal labor laws by misappropriating employee tips and withholding overtime pay. The suit also alleges that Rapone was fired in May 2007 after she complained about the company's wage policies.

Representatives for Colicchio, who is also a judge on the "Top Chef" reality TV show, did not immediately return calls for comment.

“Colicchio’s restaurants were keeping tips that belonged to the workers,” said plaintiff's attorney Justin M. Swartz of the Outten & Golden law firm. “[Rapone] worked for three months at Craftbar until she started asking whether she’d be able to keep the rest of her tips.”

Swartz said he is seeking class action status for the lawsuit, which seeks to recover unpaid wages, misappropriated tips, the spread of hours’ pay, legal fees and interest as well as punitive and compensatory damages.

According to a company website, Colicchio's restaurant company includes Craft fine-dining restaurants in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta; Craftsteak restaurants in New York, Las Vegas and the Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut; and the more casual Craftbar in New York. Colicchio's 'Wichcraft sandwich concept was not included in the lawsuit.

Attorney Swartz also was involved in asimilar tip suit filed in June against Asia Five Eight LLC, parent of the Tao Asian Bistro restaurant in New York. Swartz said a settlement with the restaurant company has since been reached and will be submitted for court approval.

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