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New York, NY - Orthodox Lawyer Fires Back Over ‘Frivolous Lawsuits’ Comment

Published on: October 3, 2011 12:22 PM
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Orthodox Jewish lawyer Maimon Kirschenbaum. Photo courtesy of Meir PliskinNew York, NY - Perhaps you caught the story in the NY Post over the weekend about restaurant lawsuits and the way pretty much all the ones you’ve heard about anytime recently have been prosecuted by one Orthodox Jewish lawyer, the so-called “scourge of restaurateurs” Maimon Kirschenbaum.

In the past few years, Kirschenbaum has pursued more than 100 wage-violation cases against New York restaurants, including Alto, Convivio, and Babbo, the latter of which prompted co-owner Joe Bastianich to say this to the Post: “Money-hungry lawyers, through frivolous lawsuits, are shaking down the very foundation of Manhattan’s restaurant industry.” Well, now Kirschenbaum has words for Bastianich, in the form of an open letter to the “disgruntled restaurant owners that have been ‘victimized’” by his suits.

Here’s the full text:

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Dear Disgruntled Restaurant Owners That Have Been “Victimized” By Me and My Fellow Law Firms:

There was one glaring omission from your quotes in the NY Post’s “expose” on me this past Sunday: The part where you claim that you did not violate the law by taking money from the waiters’ tips to subsidize other expenses in your restaurant. Given that you decided to resolve this matter in a tabloid, instead of in a courtroom where reality governs, your decision to focus on all matters other than the real issues at hand is no surprise. It was much easier for you to simply attack me as a “money-grubber” and have Joe Bastianich whine to the general public that he will not be opening another multi-million dollar operation in NYC this year. Actually, that’s probably the best you can do given what you have done to bring yourselves to this point.

The waiters and foodservice employees that I represent are some of the hardest working honorable people in NYC. There is hardly a soul in this beautiful city that is not routinely served by a NYC foodservice worker. While we all have our good and bad experiences at restaurants, there can be little doubt that the wait staff plays an integral role in making NYC what Mr. Bastianich called “the greatest restaurant city in the world.” That being the case, SHAME ON YOU FOR ABUSING THESE UNDERPRIVILEGED EMPLOYEES.

I have been practicing law for roughly six years. I can say with pride that in my wildest dreams as a law student, I would never have foreseen that G-d would give me the good fortune of being able to practice in an area as honorable as protecting the rights of underprivileged waiters. Over this period of time, I have represented: (a) waiters that were forced to hand $20 bills to their floor managers each night out of fear of being assigned the following night to a section of the restaurant where “low tipping tourists” were seated; (b) wait staff that worked significant overtime hours each week, but had their time cards systematically altered so that they would not be paid for overtime; (c) wait staff that are forced to pay back (!) their employers back for “walk-outs,” i.e., customers that walk-out without paying their bill; (d) wait staff that were paid no hourly wage at all; (e) wait staff that were required to subsidize the pay of dishwashers, silver polishers and other non-wait staff, because the restaurants were too cheap to pay these individuals directly, and (f) wait staff at banquet events for which the banquet halls charge 20% gratuities, but distribute none or a fraction of the gratuities to the wait staff. More or less, almost all of the lawsuits I have brought over the years revolve around one or several of these violations.

Please do not try and convince the public that the above-mentioned violations are a necessary component of your business or that we are exploiting some “loophole” in the law. And when you get called out for your bad behavior by me or one of the other wonderful law firms that work in my field, yes, you will have to pay back the wait staff back what you took from them. It takes a strong degree of “chutzpah” to suggest that honorable folks in Albany will change the laws to make it easier for you to get away with your bad behavior. In fact, those in the know, including the lawyers that defend my lawsuits, are well-aware of the fact that the legislature and the courts have been increasing the protections of these workers as result of the rampant violations and exploitations in NYC.

As of today, I am unaware of a single restaurant that went out of business because of one of my lawsuits. But, if a restaurant simply cannot make a profit without stealing money from its wait staff, I think we all agree that that restaurant should not be in business, and I will not regret putting that restaurant out of business.

With regard to the money-grubbing by lawyers and waiters: The attorneys’ fees on these cases must be approved by the Court. Also, contrary to what the NY Post would have you believe, there is no one person taking home one third of the moneys paid out by Defendants. These cases require significant expenditures and manpower, often more than one or two law-firms and many lawyers, to litigate them from beginning to end. Defendants are well aware of this—they too tend to staff these cases with many lawyers. Plus, we actually have to pay our employees in full. With regard to waiters, Joe Bastianich claims that waiters earn significant sums of money each year ($70-100,000). My experience has been that most waiters, even at the super high-end restaurants and banquet halls, make a lot less than that. More importantly, at least they can say that every penny of that money is rightfully theirs. If Mr. Bastianich cares to share with the general public his annual income, the public can run a comparison and decide for themselves who is getting the short end of the broomstick.

In closing, this world would be a better place if there was no legitimate need for the lawsuits brought by me and my buddies. The choice is yours. Keep the employment laws, and you will have satisfied wait staff and no legal expenses associated with defending these lawsuits. Until then, it will take a lot more to get rid of us than besmirching us in a tabloid.

Maimon Kirschenbaum



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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 03, 2011 at 12:47 PM Andrew Says:

Beautiful letter. A real kiddush Hashem! Thanks for posting this.

2

 Oct 03, 2011 at 12:49 PM Phineas Says:

he defended himself well and has accomplished alot within the law in only six years

3

 Oct 03, 2011 at 01:17 PM Bezalel Says:

Beautiful letter!

4

 Oct 03, 2011 at 01:56 PM TheRealJoe123 Says:

Very nice I like the fact that he didn't just chose to ignore the article against him

5

 Oct 03, 2011 at 02:47 PM Joe Says:

The letter is fabulous.

One of the problems that is bringing down the foundation of our society is not the internet and not the blogs or i-pods or cell phones but the stealing that goes on in business and elsewhere. How many times do we hear from friends and neighbors that Mr A "owes" hundreds of dollars? And how many times do we hear of people scamming others or store owners making a "mistake" on ones reciept after walking out of the supermarket?

How about weights and measures in stores and at the airport?

People should be more open and honest when asked what they do for a living and they should just answer they STEAL for a living!

Maybe the morons protesting on Wall Street actually have a point with the greed and the stealing that goes on daily in this country.

6

 Oct 03, 2011 at 02:55 PM iib001 Says:

Great letter/response to this ongoing legal matter however I am not convinced that lawyers do not go after the “money” otherwise how they can justify their degree. Lawyer’s are like sharks they will go wherever the “blood” is regardless of the merit of their law suit.

7

 Oct 03, 2011 at 03:04 PM MINBP Says:

I hope the NY Prost publishes it !!!

8

 Oct 03, 2011 at 04:20 PM Anonymous Says:

Please, if it's soooo bad put there, these employees would not work

9

 Oct 03, 2011 at 04:59 PM Reb Yid Says:

So, about the lettered accusations in the third paragraph of his letter, there's more than one side to a story:

(a) One man's "forced to hand $20 bills" to avoid getting a low-tipping section is another man's shmearing the floor manager to get a good-tipping section

(b) I assume there's evidence that the time cards were altered?

(c) waiters getting stuck for the bill of walk-outs is common practice in the industry. Every waiter knows that when he takes the job.

(d) Possible. But so absurd as to be unlikely. Evidence?

(e) Possible. Evidence?

(f) Ditto.

I guess the field of class action product liability lawsuits was too crowded, so he had to find a niche here.

10

 Oct 03, 2011 at 06:37 PM from-here_to-there Says:

Reply to #9  
Reb Yid Says:

So, about the lettered accusations in the third paragraph of his letter, there's more than one side to a story:

(a) One man's "forced to hand $20 bills" to avoid getting a low-tipping section is another man's shmearing the floor manager to get a good-tipping section

(b) I assume there's evidence that the time cards were altered?

(c) waiters getting stuck for the bill of walk-outs is common practice in the industry. Every waiter knows that when he takes the job.

(d) Possible. But so absurd as to be unlikely. Evidence?

(e) Possible. Evidence?

(f) Ditto.

I guess the field of class action product liability lawsuits was too crowded, so he had to find a niche here.

re: your comments to "d" "e" and "f" - he does not need to provide evidence to you - unless you are the judge or on the jury panel. If you don't believe it - fine, but make sure you don't do it at your greasy spoon cafe or he may be coming after you also.

11

 Oct 03, 2011 at 08:34 PM Reb yid, you're embarrassing us!!! Says:

You sure don't sound like u have the brains of a Yid.
Evidence????
The guy wins in court, every flipping time. He wins because he has, wait for it....
EVIDENCE!!!!
Do u think in this open letter he needs to present evidence? Is this a court case?
And in any case, the evidence is simple, he wins in court.
That's proof that he's saying the truth.
Do me a favor-change ur name to Mr Goy or something

12

 Oct 03, 2011 at 08:35 PM appalled at #9 Says:

You write that "waiters getting stuck for the bill of walk-outs is common practice in the industry. Every waiter knows that when he takes the job." Wow! Great heter for stealing! "Everyone does it, Hashem, don't punish me, please." Simply incredible.

13

 Oct 03, 2011 at 09:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Andrew Says:

Beautiful letter. A real kiddush Hashem! Thanks for posting this.

I Don't realy see the Kiddush Hashem here. I am not so familiar with these cases but this is how I see it .These employeers probally take advantage of their workers by not paying them the full amount or the correct way. The reason they get away with this is because the emploees want the jobs and do it anyway. When these cases go to court they are tried before NYC juries which are very happy to make the "rich" people pay.

If the lawyer would just be seeking to correct the wrong, they would lets say only sue for five million but since they can actully convince a jury award twenty million, they would go for it.

So basicly everyone is playing their game. The employees are only bringing this up after the fact. After they got their salaries for a few years, they are coming back and crying. The owners are not following the law. The lawyers are trying to pull the most they can out of these owners.

This has nothing to do with ethics or kiddush hashem. This is about being a good salesman to the jury.

14

 Oct 03, 2011 at 11:05 PM mewhoze Says:

this reminds me of the wedding halls that tell you you must give $ x hundreds of dollars for the tips but give it all to the manager to divvy up.
who wants to bet the manager keeps most of it...............

15

 Oct 03, 2011 at 11:28 PM fahrfrumt Says:

Decent letter until he got to this part: "If Mr. Bastianich cares to share with the general public his annual income, the public can run a comparison and decide for themselves who is getting the short end of the broomstick."

Classic liberal class warfare. This has absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand. Whether they are breaking the law is one thing. That there are some that are wealthier than others is a matter of our free market and is a wonderful thing. That's what makes the system great. Just write a letter on the matters, don't bring in the fact that the owners make more than the wait staff. That's just trying to get sympathy for them.

16

 Oct 04, 2011 at 09:05 AM logic Says:

Without any Govt involvement, the ratio of, 'Factories and other employee-seekers, Versus, Job-seekers, would have been much greater.. Then the free market would have determined that the price for an average worker is about $12 per Hr.

Because of Gov't involvement, all factories closed down, and the supply and demand, foces the market to put the price at $5.50 per hour.

So the Gov't comes in and "fixes" the booboo by forcing it up to 7.25.

Just look at the market of cleaning ladies, (no Govt involvement), you can't get one for less than $12.00 per hr plus lunch and carfare..

17

 Oct 04, 2011 at 12:03 PM Phineas Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

Please, if it's soooo bad put there, these employees would not work

You are joking right? These people are desperate. They have to work even if they are getting cheated b/c some money is better than no money and they have people counting on them. A little humanity please.

18

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