standard “Please! Everybody and their mother is in this.” Meet the Attorney Who Sued Michael Grimm

Michael Faillace represented the “Healthalicious” workers in a civil lawsuit. He is colorfully combative and unrepentant in his disgust for most restaurant owners, along with the opposing attorneys they retain. But he actually feels bad for the indicted congressman, who he believes was targeted as a “big cheese,” while abuses remain rampant. He is also fond of the use of expletives.

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Photo by Matthew Taub.

Q. Mr. Faillace, thank you for seeing me.
A. Well, I can’t see you—I’m totally blind.

Q. Oh. Well nice to—
A. It’s okay, nice to meet you, nice to meet you. Now please hurry up, because I have a busy schedule. I snuck you in between one client meeting after another. And then there’s another after that. Let’s go.

“I feel bad for him because all the other sons of bitches that I sued get away with it.”

Q. Okay, well, first tell me about the Healthalicious lawsuit.
A. I cannot talk about the case’s resolution because there is a confidentiality agreement. But the law in New York State is clear. If you spend more than twenty percent or two hours a day doing non-delivery work you have to get paid “tip credit” rate.

Q. What about the failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance? Is that common?
A. Most employers don’t carry workers’ comp. Look, Healthalicious is no different from any other restaurant. It’s just that Mr. Grimm was the owner. I feel bad for him because all the other sons of bitches that I sued get away with it.

[Laughter]

No, it’s very sad. Because all those S.O.B.s bring their taxes over to me to claim they have no money, like he [Grimm] did, and it turns out they’re all just fucking liars, like he was. And I tell that to my staff, and they don’t believe me. Oh, give him a break, you know, he barely made anything. They’re all just goddamn liars. So I’m glad this case happened, so my staff sees that it’s not just me who believes these guys are just…you know, operators. They’re all the same!

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Photo by Matthew Taub.

Q. What do you need from the workers [to sue]?
A. Nothing. Just, they talk to me. They give me their information. And with their information, we file the lawsuits.

Q. And how many of them are successful?
A. All of them.

Q. And you file in Federal Court?
A. Federal Court. State Court we get nowhere. It’s too slow.

Q. What’s the worst case you’ve seen in terms of workers being exploited?
A. Pssh. They’re all so similar. Umm. I don’t know, maybe Peyton or my office manager…

PEYTON [office worker]: They’re all the same, Michael.

A. They’re all the same! The workers are paid less than the minimum wage because the law allows it, but they’re being made to do non-delivery work. Cleaning, cutting vegetables, taking out garbage.

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Faillace’s lawsuit against Grimm and Healthalicious (Obtained by Matthew Taub via ECF)

Q. And if they protest?
A. No. They have no right. They can leave the place.

Q. That’s it?
A. The only way they can protest is to come to the Department of Labor or me. You know, I compete with the Department of Labor.

Q. Will that get them anywhere?
A. It will, it just takes three or four years. So, you get what you pay for. I will file a lawsuit immediately. I mean, they come to me and in a week I have a lawsuit filed.

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Photo by Matthew Taub.

Q. And Federal Court is very fast?
A. Its not very. It depends how crafty and how much money the employer has. Employers with lots of money, who have crafty lawyers from the big firms—they can delay, delay, delay. And they’re good at it. They bullshit the judges. Your honor, we need more time. And so some judges are very nice and give them extension, extension. And so they can delay the stuff for maybe a year and a half.

Q. But eventually?
A. Eventually, they have to cough up money.

“Employers with lots of money, who have crafty lawyers from the big firms—they can delay, delay, delay. And they’re good at it. They bullshit the judges.”

Q. Is this happening with just little restaurants, or are there big chains too?
A. Everybody! Oh, please. PLEASE! Batali got his ass kicked. Everybody! Everybody and their mother. You know…what’s the fancy joint…? Il Mulino, you ever heard of that? Very expensive joint. They got hit for a lot of money. Everybody! Everybody and their mother is in this.

Q. Are they even putting these employees on the roles, or just saying they don’t even work there?
A. It depends on the restaurant. And the mistakes are different. Il Mulino, the mistake there was that they were sharing the tips of the waiters with the manager. So, it depends. The facts vary. Many of the restaurants don’t put the guys on their taxes. Correct.

I assure you—you look at this case, Healthalicious, is no different than any other case. I read the facts and it’s like: ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto. The only different thing is that they [Healthalicious] weren’t stealing the tips. Many of the employers steal part of the tips. I think Healthalicious wasn’t ripping off the tips.

Q. They were just underpaying them?
A. No. They were paying them what the law allowed them to pay, but they were violating a technicality. They technicality is this: if you have a worker who you’re paying less than minimum wage, you’re supposed to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to do that. And most employers don’t do it.

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Photo by Matthew Taub.

“NOTHING will come out of this shit! Nothing! Fucking NOTHING! And you can quote me on that. Bullshit! I wish the U.S. attorneys would go after these bastards.”

Q. What were the hoops?
A. First, the employee has to be informed that his tips are part of his salary. Most employers don’t bother to do that. Number two, the employees have to tell them employer how much in tips they’re getting every day, and the employer has to keep a record of those tips. Number three, they have to be paid by check, and in their check, it has to say how much they got in tips that week, and how much is salary. They never get paid in check. Number four, and more important, they have to keep record of the hours worked. They have to punch in and out. Most restaurants don’t punch in and out. Number five, they can’t make the worker spend more than twenty percent or two hours a day doing non-tip work. And most restaurants do that.

Q. With the Grimm indictment, more of a light is being shined on these workers and their plight. Do you hope anything will come of it?
A. NOTHING will come out of this shit! Nothing! Fucking NOTHING! And you can quote me on that. Bullshit! I wish the U.S. attorneys would go after these bastards. It angers me, because I say yeah, they caught Grimm, ‘cause he’s a big cheese! But what about all these bastards I sue every day! They’re getting away with murder and they’re laughing all the way to the bank. Bastards!

And you know, especially those who hire the big firms! They bully you and they try to, you know, push you around, to try to get their god damn crook clients away with murder. The bigger the firm, the more twisted and the more scummy they are. Scum, scum, scum.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Matthew Taub.

This article is part of a series. Related articles appear below.


 

Congressman Michael Grimm (Wikimedia Commons)

Congressman Michael Grimm (Wikimedia Commons)

Brooklyn Brief: The Indictment of Congressman Michael Grimm

A synopsis of the indictment, its ramifications, the political fallout and polarized reaction (largely along party lines).


 

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Indictment Spotlights Workers in the Shadows

They work for five dollars an hour, with frequent requests to stay late, or perform additional tasks. Their tips are often stolen and their wages can go unpaid. For those in the restaurant industry’s shadow economy—catering, busing, cooking and delivery— the story of the workers who brought a civil suit against Michael Grimm is all too common.


 

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“Please! Everybody and their mother is in this.”

Michael Faillace represented the “Healthalicious” workers in a civil lawsuit. He is colorfully combative and unrepentant in his disgust for most restaurant owners, along with the opposing attorneys they retain. But he actually feels bad for the indicted congressman, who he believes was targeted as a “big cheese,” while abuses remain rampant. He is also fond of the use of expletives.


 

Cast of Characters

Two Years Chasing a Tight-Lipped Cast of Characters

The initial, unsuccessful investigation of the congressman lasted two years and centered on suspicious funding for his 2010 election campaign. Many of Grimm’s business associates and other contacts were pursued during this time, often booked on separate but related charges, and pressured to testify against him. It appears few of them did.


 
Stanley Cohen

With the Power to Indict, the Power to Condemn

It’s not just the Congressman’s case that’s suspect: prosecutions across the political and cultural spectrum are dogged by similar accusations.

 


 

Richardson_Law_021914_524

Expert Check-in: Charges are Warranted

Morghan Richardson, Esq., a criminal defense and divorce attorney, analyzes the charges. Despite the likely ubiquity of the activities alleged in the restaurant industry, the claim that the congressman maintained two sets of records was enough for prosecutors to confidently move forward.


For those presently or formerly in the crosshairs, indictments are seen as a pre-text for a political agenda. Jen Gatien recalls how one case after another was pursued to literally run her father–a prominent owner of several Manhattan nightclubs–out of town.