11:43pm PT by Chris Gardner
Jessica Biel, Restaurant Partners Sued by Employees Over Tips, Compensation
Jessica Biel and her business partners at their hip, kid-focused restaurant Au Fudge have been served with a lawsuit by nine mostly former employees who claim they weren't given proper rest and meal breaks, nor were they paid tens of thousands of dollars in gratuities from major Hollywood parties they worked for companies like Netflix, Amazon and Fox.
In total — between the alleged rest break violations and private and buyout gratuities — the plaintiffs are seeking $461,649 in compensatory damages along with punitive damages "in an amount to be ascertained at trial but not less than $1,000,000."
The suit, filed Wednesday in L.A.'s Superior Court of California, lists defendants as Au Fudge, AFI Partners, LP, Biel, Estee Stanley, Monica Saunders-Weinberg, Jonathan Rollo, Joey Gonzalez, and Kim Muller. The plaintiffs in the suit are Christina Desage, Jacqueline Desage, Megan Cournoyer, Jodie Moore, Emily Qualey, Patrick Conor, Kristyn Toney, Josef Gamper and Jack Stagg. They served in positions including host, server, server assistant, runner, barista, au pair or bartender, according to the filing.
Those plaintiffs are said to be the bulk of the original team hired when Au Fudge opened in 2016 on a trendy stretch in the heart of the city at 9010 Melrose Ave., not far from celebrity-favored haunts like Gracias Madre and Craig's. The suit's introduction even nods to the Au Fudge's chic status by referencing media reports that called it "Soho House for kids."
The staffers are said to be "young adults new to the workforce and new to Los Angeles" who did double duty by working at Au Fudge while "trying to begin a career in the entertainment industry," the suit says. "Plaintiffs were unfamiliar with workers' rights and were ill-prepared to deal with violations of their rights in the workplace," it adds.
The tips, though, are really the entree in this suit. The restaurant relied heavily on private events and buy-outs business, according to Alexandra Desage, not a plaintiff but presumably related to the other two Desages who are. She provided a declaration in which she alleges that staffers were meant to be paid a generous 22 percent gratuity for private events. However, the plaintiffs claim that they missed out on tips for many of these major industry parties put on by Netflix, Fox, Amazon, Marc Jacobs International and Toms.
The priciest of those included a Netflix event on July 28, 2016, for its animated series Beat Bugs that saw the streamer pay $80,220.19, of which $13,271.50 was due to go to the some of the plaintiffs, they allege. Same for Amazon's May 7, 2017, party that printed a receipt for $94,416.70, of which $14,630 was due to plaintiffs, the suit claims. Invoices for all of the aforementioned parties are attached as exhibits in the filing.
Desage says in the suit that she approached one of the partners, Rollo, on several occasions to question the restaurant's policies on gratuities but was told "don't worry about it," leaving her with a feeling that "he was blowing me off and knowingly burying his head in the sand." She resigned in June 2017 from her post as director of events.
THR reached out to a rep for Biel and has yet to hear back.