More Legal Trouble for Catering Company

Management of Morrell Caterers, which runs out of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, accused of pocketing $10M in tips.

In addition to allegations of tainting kosher food with non-kosher food, the management of Morrell Caterers, which operates partly out of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, is also accused of pocketing about $10 million in tips over the past six years that were supposed to go to as many as 500 employees, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday.

“The greed has to stop,” said William Cataldo, a former maitre d’ at Morrell that is part of the suit. “We were forced to give over our gratuities. We were being deceitful to the clients,” who believed an extra “service charge” listed in contracts would be going to employees.

The suit, filed by Carle Place’s Leeds Morelli & Brown, P.C., in Nassau County Supreme Court on behalf of former employees, alleges that Morrell Caterers’ violated New York labor law by withholding tips and gratuities totaling as much as $10 million that were required to be given to waiters, bussers, bartenders and others. Morrell runs out of three synagogues on Long Island: Temple Israel of Lawrence, Woodbury Jewish Center and Temple Beth Torah of Melville. The service charge was in catering contracts instead of cash tips that customers would give during or after an affair.

“The public would think twice about 18 percent gratuity if he or she knew the truth,” said Jeffrey Brown, partner at Leeds Morelli & Brown. “It was the ultimate deception.”

Brown said at a press conference at the law firm’s office that employees of Morrell would lose their jobs if they received cash tips. All envelopes containing cash tips were required by the caterer to be delivered to management, according to testimony from sales managers in documents filed in another lawsuit.

“This was a dictatorship,” said Lenard Leeds, managing partner at Leeds Morelli & Brown, P.C. “They’ve been defrauding the staff and the public.”

Owner Scott Morrell’s attorney, Steven Schlesinger, said both suits are without merit.

“Everyone got every penny that they were entitled to, period,” he said. “I don’t know where these guys are coming from, but it’s just 100 percent not true.”

Former Morrell hostess Megan Johnson, of Great Neck, who recently quit, estimates that she is out about $100,000 over six years from missing tips.

“We were scared if we took something,” she said. “As a person, [owner Scott Morrell] didn’t have any acknowledgement or respect for the staff. The tips were never discussed.”

Morrell also faces allegations from the company’s former chef, Michael Savitsky, and general manager, Tom Cataldo, who own 20 percent of the company, that he had his employees prepare non-kosher food in the kosher kitchens and transported all the food in the same truck.

Two former employees, Michael Goldstein and Tracy Rubenstein, swore in affidavits that they witnessed the preparation of dairy and non-kosher foods at Temple Beth Torah’s kitchen. They also allege that Morrell posed lower-quality liquor as top-shelf liquor.

A rabbi with the Vaad of Flatbush, which supervises Morrell, said the company’s locations were handled appropriately for kosher food.

Question February 16, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Question February 16, 2012 at 11:15 PM
The kingdom has crashed....finally
Jacquie February 17, 2012 at 08:36 AM
Delete Jacquie 3:28 am on Friday, February 17, 2012 I think the media is doing what it's made to do, which is to let the public in on info from both parties. I think the entire thing is true and I am not shocked one bit that Mr Morell ran a business this way. It's very sad that I am not shocked one bit. It's so clear that greed got to his head and he went againt HIS very own religion. Myself being Jewish is embaraased someone of my own religion would disrespect our faith and community and it was former employees who are not Jewish who had more respect for the religion. I read about the latest case tonight about tips being held and never given to employees. My heart breaks for those that had to work under such condition. Working in the business of service is not easy and these men and women work hour after hour devoting their lives to the Jewish catering business and they do not get properly rewarded. As a customer when I give a tip I give a tip based on service that was given to me. Think about how many people have tipped the caterer and the person who gave the great service never saw a penny of it. If Mr Morell himself was running these affairs I wonder if the families would be giving out such generous tips? I feel for the former employees who feared working this way, but praise them for having the guts to speak up. Imagine they didn't, how many more people could be lied to, taken advantage of and ripped off by Mr Morells rules and not so kosher ways.
Amy February 17, 2012 at 08:53 AM
I had my wedding in one of the temples that Morrell caters runs. This was 6 months ago. I feel broken by Mr Morrell for giving instruction to his employees to cook un kosher food in the temple. I had family fly in from Israel who are Glatt Kosher and I assured them months ago that this was a reputable place. I feel sick to my stomach that they are seeing this. And I won't mention the several hundreds of dollars that my parents gave the Morrell staff in tips based on how amazing the staff and service was. The night the wedding ended I asked my father to add more money to all of the tips because the Manager handling my wedding and entire staff were amazing and went above and beyond for every detail needed. Had I known these tips were going into one large pot and not given to each person that were in envelopes with their name on them I never would have asked my father to be so generous with his very hard earned money. It kills to me think we gave above the suggested amount. Yes I said suggested tip amount. Mr Morrell even gave out a suggested tip amount for his managers to us. At this point I suggest he stops suggesting anything before I suggest another more of my angry thoughts to the public.
Yooooo p's voice February 17, 2012 at 12:47 PM
As a former employee and manager at morrell caterers it was personally hard to know that at the end of the night my tip out was going to be taken away from me and handed over to mr. Morrell. Being in college and living on my own that money would of helped in a lot of situations but that was the norm at the company and questioning it would of led to termination. It's hard to know that after workin there for over 7 years morrell didn't even know I existed, he didn't know my name or telephone number. What bugs me the most is the fact that the clients would think that there generous tips that were given would actually be for that captain or maitre d. When in fact just as there backs were turned it would be put into an envelope with Scott Morrell's name on it. It was truly on fair cause the wait staff and I would go Over and beyond for the clients on their special days either getting mitzvah or married. I always said if I was a client and knew what was going on with these tips and gratuity after paying for a very pricy affair, I would of never forked over more money to be pocketed exclusively by greedy mr. Morrell. All the allegations of cooking non kosher in the kosher kitchen and pouring cheap alcohol into top shelf bottles and selling the for outrageously high prices are all true. I personally saw this being done on a weekly basis and always thought it was such a dirtbag thing to do. I am part of the lawsuit but only want what was owed to me nothing more. Yoooooooo
Mich February 17, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Has ANYONE stopped to ask themselves this.....THESE ALLEGATIONS are ALL from FORMER Morrell employees....not to mention, ALL OF WHOM were hired by Tom Cataldo, former Manager! Tom had an extremely tight relationship with all of these people - had parties for them at his home, traveled with them, etc. For all you people that want to jump, look at the facts FIRST. Ironic that these people are all part of the suit now. I find these allegations HILARIOUS...you people are pathetic. Lets connect the dots here people....2 management were FIRED ---- remember that public! - and they now can't believe they have no income coming in and living the lifestyle they had - and are PISSED and want to seek revenge the only way they know how! Actually, right out of TOM CATALDO's mouth -----"my wife would kill me if I ever quit this job" and that was spoken directly to me - one week before he was fired. Funny, and now this is all coming out - I guess this is what they chose to do in their spare time. So sad - you are ALL a disgrace.
Jane February 18, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Mich, You have every right to express your opinion but do not forget that publishing false statements is libelous, thus subjecting you to suit. Mich, you recommend people to look at the facts first, however, you fail to do so yourself and your way of connecting the dots will not lead you to the truth. Michael Savitsky and Tom Cataldo filed a suit claiming Scott Morrell ordered staff to prepare non-kosher and kosher meals in the same kitchen. It was thereafter that Scott Morrell fired Savitsky and Cataldo. That is a vital piece of information that you leave out of your posting. Let me remind you that Nassau District Attorney, Kathleen Rice has opened an investigation of Morrell Caterers for possible criminal activity. Bottom line, the truth will prevail through the records and assets that the courts have prohibited Scott Morrell from destroying.
Beth Gold February 18, 2012 at 10:43 PM
I am blown away with everything I am reading. I had my daughters Bat Mitzvah four years ago at Temple Beth Torah. William Cataldo was the Matre d at the time. He was fabulous. I never received service like this before. I had my sons Bar Mitzvah three years prior at a different temple and could not believe how wonderful the staff at Temple Beth Torah was compared to the previous place I used. I must make mention to William, as he truly went above and beyond for us. He was a pleasure to do business with, its awful to imagine he worked so hard for generous tips and never got them. I heard he was no longer with the company, so when I read this article it truly made me realize he didnt have anything to lose by speaking up since he is not employed there anymore. I hope he gets to the bottom of this and gets all he deserves.
Morrell employee February 19, 2012 at 06:40 AM
I worked for the company. I know personally that non kosher food was cooked in that kitchen, cheap alcohol was poured into top shelf bottles, and I never received any gratuities.
Former Employee February 19, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I worked for the Morrell family as well in the early and late 90's, and where I can attest that Scott Morrell was a cold and selfish individual, I can also attest that everyone that worked there was told upon hiring that their hourly pay was all they would be receiving, and the taking of 'tips' was strictly forbidden. We all had a very simple decision to make, take the job or not. For a guaranteed $15/hr in 1993, where my friends working at restaurants made $3/hr + 'tip', it was simple, I happily took the job. Whatever they told the clients had nothing to do with me, as long as they paid my agreed wage. Now labor lawyers are involved, G-d help us all! It's my understanding that they feel we are owed a service charge, and that would bring my pay to somewhere in the $50/hr range. Not bad for a 20 something year old in the 90's. My distaste for Scott Morrell and his manager at the time, Tom Cataldo, made me decide to pack it up, and leave...and I never looked back.
Question February 19, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I too worked there in the 90's. They had a cranky old head bartender at WooburyJC, that would full name brand liquor bottles with "house pour" alchol. I once mentioned it to Scotts mom Rosa that the customer didnt like the drink. Scott called the customer w his mom, "south shore trash" and were laughing hystericaly about it. Being from Freeport i was not amused. Anyway a job was a job. They were all jerks, mom, scott,sister. ( forgot). The dad was ok but not around much. They were awful people to me. The liquor part os true and if a customet gave me cash tip(rarely) i put on my pocket and never told anyone in fear of getting firrd.
Nino August 18, 2012 at 02:18 PM
If this is true and they are found guilty,they should lose everything and it all go to the employees. As far as serving non kosher food,he must notify all the people who paid for events there and refund the money. Any residuals should go toward a charity. The shame of this is unspeakable and an act of greed , They need to lose everything.


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