Star chef facing class action lawsuit by former partners and employees for wage violations

You may have seen him on tv, Food Network’s Geoffrey Zakarian.  He is a fixture on the popular tv network.  He is also owner of several high profile restaurants including several that have won three stars from the New York Times.

Even though Mr. Zakarian owns several profitable restaurants, he as filed for personal bankruptcy to fend off what could more than $1,000,000 in legal claims.

In a class action lawsuit filed against Mr. Zakarian and his management team,  152 of Mr. Zakarian’s former cooks of his now defunct Country restaurant, are alleging that he failed to pay overtime, falsified pay records to cheat them out of their wages and deducted staff meals from their paychecks that they say they never received.

Two of Mr. Zakarian’s former partners have taken up sides with the workers against him. Adam Block, who is one of his former partners in the Country restaurant,  has filed an affidavit which supports the workers claims.  Another former partner, Moshe Lax has filed a separate suit against Mr. Zakarian alleging that he violated federal and state labor laws.

Prince Breland, the head plaintiff in the class action lawsuit said in papers filed with the courts, that line cooks were regularly short changed by two to three hours per shift.  If  he worked longer shifts hour he was being paid $7.50 per hour instead of being paid at $12 per hour which is what he was due.

Mr. Breland also said that in the restaurant’s first year, it was so busy that no one was able to take a break.  Which meant no lunch or dinner meals.  Yet, $2 a day was deducted from everyone’s paycheck for the staff meals.

On July 3, 2008, the workers filed suit.

According to court documents the restaurant grossed about $9,000,000 a year, but was never profitable.  The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Zakarian used Country as “something of a personal fiefdom.”  Mr. Block alleges that Mr. Zakarian gave away more than 10% of Country’s revenue in complimentary meals to friends and family.  Mr. Block also alleges that he was using the company’s credit card for personal expenses totaling thousands of dollars monthly.

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