A group of former employees at Jessica Biel’s restaurant are making some serious allegations against her and her partners. They just filed a lawsuit claiming that the restaurant has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in tips from its employees by charging customers a 22 percent gratuity and then failing to distribute that money to the staff.
Legal documents obtained by The Blast show that nine former employees have banded together to sue Biel and four other co-owners of Au Fudge, a West Hollywood spot that caters to kids. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant was often “bought out,” or reserved for large private parties, for which clients were given invoices that included a 22 percent charge for “gratuity.” The former employees involved in the lawsuit claim they were never given a cut of that money.
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Several former employees at Au Fudge who are not involved with the lawsuit stated during depositions that they questioned the policy. Alexandra Desage, a former director of events at the restaurant, said “every private event customer” she worked with thought the gratuity was for the staff members who worked the event, and that she “cannot remember a time” when a client offered a tip in addition to the gratuity charge. Desage also said she brought her concerns to one of the co-owners, who told her, “I don’t think you understand. Don’t worry about it.”
Jamie Aronson, another employee not involved in the suit, said she also went to management with concerns about the restaurant keeping employees’ tips. She claims the general manager at the time told her, “It’s all good. The customers are far more likely to be OK with 20 plus percent if they think that amount is going to the employees.”
The nine former employees named in the lawsuit claim they lost out on $430,100 in tips, and they’re seeking an extra $1 million in punitive damages.