An analysis of federal and state databases sheds new light on the prevalence and scale of wage theft in New York restaurants and other industries, placing the total wages stolen in one five-year period at more than $203 million.
For Marcelino Zapoteco, the final straw came on a quiet night in 2018 at the restaurant Brioso on Staten Island. He was working alongside one of the managers who had been pulled in by the restaurant’s co-owner Pietro “Peter” DiMaggio to help as a waiter. At one point during the shift, Zapoteco watched the manager slip tip money into his pocket when he was supposed to pool it to be shared with others.
Zapoteco, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, said he knew that the restaurant was grossly underpaying him during the more than seven years he worked there. When he served as a runner, bringing food to customers’ tables, he received as little as $10 for lunch and dinner shifts — far below the required minimum wage even when tips were included, he said.
But that night, when he saw the manager pocketing the tip, Zapoteco had enough. A few days later, he and his co-workers went to DiMaggio and complained — but to no avail. “If you guys don’t like me or don’t like Brioso, the door is over there,” DiMaggio told them, according to a state investigator’s report, which included a transcript of a recording of that conversation.