The Real Reason Bobby Flay Was Sued By His Employees

It's somewhat commonplace for restaurant owners to be sued by employees, frequently as a result of allegations that they were not receiving their proper share of tips, or service charges (via Eater Seattle). Although these lawsuits have the potential to go to court, they are often settled before that point to avoid legal fees and bad press. 

This is exactly what happened, rather publicly, to Food Network star Bobby Flay in 2009 (via E! News). Employees who were being paid hourly at a number of Flay's New York City restaurants including Bar Americain, Mesa Grill, and Bolo, claimed that "they had been cheated out of wages and tips and [sought] to recover minimum wages, overtime compensation and allegedly misappropriated gratuities." 

Incidentally, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the employees had won similar claims against other New York restaurants such as Shelly's Prime Steak, Tao, and Buddha (via DNA Info). And what happened next was, perhaps, predictable.

Flay settles the wage violation lawsuit for a hefty fee

According to the five employees who filed the lawsuit, Flay's company didn't reimburse the cost of the uniforms that were mandatory to wear during their shifts, they didn't pay out minimum wage or over time, and doled out tips to employees that shouldn't have been eligible for them.

The next year, Flay responded to the lawsuit by agreeing to pay a settlement of $800,000. This prevented the case from going to trial, even though Flay maintained that he hadn't done anything wrong.

Bar Americain closed in 2018, with Flay saying he was unable to afford renovations (via Eater New York). Bolo also closed to make room for a condo in New York's Flatiron District (via The Travel). And Mesa Grill closed in 2013, after 22 years due to proposed rent increases. However, Flay maintains a location of Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace casino in Las Vegas (via Mesa Grill).