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Lidia being sued for enslavement

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  • hon Aug 19, 2011 10:20 AM

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/ma...

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  1. Oh Lidia, I hope this woman is wrong about you!
    I enjoyed the comment thread on this article. Esp. the one from Tyrene (near the top of the comments).

    1. oh gadz. i wonder.....

      1. from the article

        But why, for six years, didn't Farina just get up and leave?
        "[Farina] became bonded with this old lady, and didn't want to leave her like that," the lawyer said.

        Ok so they admit she could have left, and chose not to. Sorry that doesn't equal enslavement.

        14 Replies
        1. re: rasputina

          I think Farina was still hoping to get into the culinary world even after this old woman passed away.
          The whole case is just bizarre.
          Why would Lidia bring an Italian chef with no English to America and why would Farina go? Why not just hire a home health worker or caretaker? Obviously, it's cheaper as it turns out...Lots of things don't add up right.
          She got her to the US under dubious circumstances, Farina was new to the US and probably intimidated / grateful to Lidia so she keeps on working, learns English and is settled after 6 years. Enslavement? Probably no, but lied to/taken advantage of? Most likely......

          1. re: rasputina

            I don't think we gave enough information for you to make that call.

            1. re: rasputina

              i have no idea if the allegations are true. However, if you recall the Elizabeth Smart case, simply because someone is not shackled to a wall does not mean that they are not technically a slave. If you are being paid below the minimum wage or denied basic rights like use of the bathroom, in the very least you qualify as working in sweatshop conditions and at the very worse, you are a slave. If someone who doesn't know English or our legal system is being mistreated, they may not necessarily have the means to leave.

              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                If anyone can find a denial or statement from Lidia countering the charge, you're a better searcher than I am. I think the woman was quietly paid off so the new book tour could begin. Can't imagine allowing such a scurrilous charge stand, if untrue, and not responding.

                1. re: mcf

                  Defendants in civil actions are ALWAYS advised by counsel not to comment. And it is extremely difficult to summon up the restraint not to shout out the truth of the matter while the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly. It can be the most frustrating chapter of one's life, and expensive, too.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Maybe it's a family thing; Batali and Joe Bastianich are being sued by workers for wage violations, too.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Moneyed people wear a bullseye on their back. Some deserve it, some don't.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        I don't think they do more than anyone else. There are a lot of moneyed people and corporations employing many more folks who aren't being charged with wage and labor violations. It will be interesting to see how these cases play out; nothing is proven yet.

                        1. re: mcf

                          http://ny.eater.com/archives/2011/09/...

                          1. re: mcf

                            I think they do. If the point is to extract/extort money for some grievance, real or imagined, there is little to gain from sueing a poor person.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Poor folks aren't usually in a position to employ folks and then abuse labor/wage rules, either. It's rampant at least here in NY, with food service among the most flagrant abusers. Eveyrthing must just happen to the Bastianich family.

                              Most folks want fair pay every week and to be treated with respect much more than they want a lawsuit and to go to court. That's why most folks aren't suing their employers. As for lawyer ads in ethnic papers, well YEAH, immigrant labor, particularly undocumented, is being exploited terribly.

                              I'd call the article cited by fourunder very, VERY self serving.

                              1. re: mcf

                                I agree with all you say. One would think the well-to-do have an extra incentive to comply with labor laws in order to keep what they have. Some do, some don't. For the record, I am very much an advocate of immigrant labor with fair working and living conditions. Pay is much more subjective, and is driven by supply and demand.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  As a frinstance, my daughter worked in a popular, long open cafe in Brooklyn a few years ago as a server. The kitchen employees were all undocumented and earning $40 per 10-12 hour shift. :-/

                2. re: rasputina

                  Jaycee Lee Dugaard could have left too..but she didn't. I'd say the woman who spoke no English was enslaved...just like jaycee.

                3. Time will tell how much of the complaint is accurate and supported by timeline and paper trail... it sounds as if they at least have false statements on immigration documents. Even if not legally enslavement, the woman is illegally here, can't speak the language and has no funds... compromised at least, and hoping that Lydia is going to come through for her. Clearly, it would have cost a great deal more to pay for professional home health care.

                  1. I hope it's not true.
                    Hate to say there are always 2 sides to every story.
                    The true one and the lie.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: iL Divo

                      I think the true one is usually found somewhere between the two sides.

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        yup

                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                          Precisely.

                      2. I can't judge whether the woman's claim is legit or not, but I haven't often heard of 100 yr old obese people.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Rmis32

                          As someone who works in a hospital, Lord knows I have.

                        2. Let's consider the source of the news story, first of all. the NY Post is hardly a bastion of journalistic excellence. It is, in fact, a tabloid.

                          Secondly, the mean-spiritedness and frightening tone of some of these posts on this thread appall me.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jmckee

                            It is a lawsuit that is making the allegations, not the NY Post, And though I don't trust the Post much more than you do, I trust that they didn't make up the lawsuit.

                            As others have pointed out, these allegations make a number of specific and mostly verifiable/falsifiable claims. Time will tell in this case, it seems.

                            Unless it's settled out of court. Which it likely will be.

                          2. Enslavement sounds like lawyer speak to generate sympathy for his client.

                            However, it is kind of fishy that LB and her daughter brought someone from Italy to take care of the old lady. LB got the house too!

                            I can see the plaintiff, being from the old country, feeling obligated to take care of the lady too. Actually, more of a Catholic guilt thing. If she leaves who will take care of her? etc...

                            I have a feeling that the Bastianichs' used their fame to their advantage.
                            But I'm just old and cynical.

                            1. How sad, I think it may be true. The woman had been here for so long, believed Lydia and quite frankly it is scary to pick up and leave when you don't have any relatives around. I don't know what I would do if I were in the same situation in a different country.

                              1. The antipathy towards Lydia is surprising to me.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: monavano

                                  Now for the whole family, just based upon performance personnae. We have seen the claims, but have not seen the evidence. Why is there no criminal charge, only a lawsuit?

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    If there is to be criminal charges, an investigation must first be made. I would guess it is too soon for criminal charges.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      Well, yes, I understand that; my thinking is, we would have heard something of it, and that her lawyer would have held off suing til any CI was complete. Of course, it's possible that a CI will come out of the civil action evidence?

                                      I don't understand why her lawyer went straight to lawsuit and no criminal complaint, especially given the conviction of a Long Island couple who enslaved women from overseas as household help. Long sentence and big fines.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        The plaintiff sued before any criminal investigation or charges because they do not wish to wait for a criminal trial to be completed and they hope for a settlement, It could take years for a criminal trial to get through the courts.

                                        1. re: John E.

                                          Could it also be because there may be insufficient evidence to support a criminal case, so they are choosing to try her in the court of public opinion, using the NY Post in order to press her to settle financially before her reputation gets too damaged?

                                          1. re: Cachetes

                                            Even more so: a criminal trial wouldn't get her back wages. Whether or not there is enough evidence to support a criminal trial is moot. I'd bet the plaintiff is looking for a large, quick settlement, hence the NY Post. Doesn't mean she's wrong or that there's little evidence. Just means she needs money. You would too if you hadn't been paid in 6 years.

                                            There's also the lesson learned from the OJ Simpson debacle, where winning a large civil suit after a criminal trial resulted in basically no money every being paid to the plaintiffs - all of the defendant's resources were used up in the criminal defense.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              I never meant to suggest that the plaintiff might be wrong, though I'm not as quick as some others here to suggest that she's necessarily right either. And you are absolutely right when you say that if she's been stiffed for 6 years, she deserves back pay and then some. If it does get settled quickly, we'll likely never know where the truth of it all lies.

                                            2. re: Cachetes

                                              Sure it could, because so far we have only heard details from one side of the case. I thought I made that clear?

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                I guess not clear enough so that I got it (that's no insult to your explanation, only to my powers of interpretation). You are seeing it in a more balanced way (let the process run its course, see where the evidence leads it), whereas I'm simply implying something more nefarious (that the plaintiffs may know they do not have enough evidence, and are simply getting around it).

                                    2. re: monavano

                                      I can think of two reasons to not be surprised at the antipathy shown on this thread. First, it is human nature. Second, there are a lot of details in the bews story against Ms. Bastianich with no denials or details in her defense.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        The absence of denials or spin offensive does speak volumes, and I'd bet there are settlement talks taking place.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          I agree. I think the silence from the defense so far is mostly because they don't want to show their hand before they have an attempt to reach a settlement.

                                    3. Who knows what the real truth is, but to me it certainly doesn't sound like enslavement. The woman was not shackled nor was she even locked in the house. She may not have been paid, but she lived in a house at no charge in exchange for caregiving, something my mother has done. If she was naive enough to think she'd be a star in a new country, she could have easily been talked into a lawsuit by some sleazy lawyer.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: mojoeater

                                        I think you're being a tad too literal minded.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          I'd like to know who controlled her Passport.. There was a popular Japanese owner of Habachi Style restaurants in the New York Metro area....allegedly, he confiscated and withheld his employees' Passports , who were recruited from Japan and accused of making them indentured servants in effect.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I'm sorry, but enslavement is a serious issue throughout the world. And using it in a legal case where there perhaps was no real captivity is serious.

                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                              I understand how serious enslavement is. I just don't think the only way to accomplish it is to chain someone to a radiator. In any case, there does not appear to be a denial from Lidia. Yet.

                                        2. Wow; just read some of the posts on various sites.

                                          People nicknaming her, Tanya and Joe "Beataly". I am going to watch this close; really like her and will have to wait and see how this all plays out. And, the whole staying for several years, that is a Catholic italian guilt thing. This lady probably did think she would make good on her promise.

                                          I am going to follow this story.

                                          By the way, I always wondered (not that it is any of my business) about her divorce from her husband. That was really kept out of the press from both sides. Wonder what happened there.

                                          1. Lidia Bastianich has a new book out and will be on a book-signing tour for the next couple of months.

                                            1. I wish my slaves would just shut up and row.
                                              Does anyone believe this drivel? Show me a 100 year old obese person, and I will show you porcine dendrochronology very soon.

                                              1. I don't understand a few things --
                                                First of all, if Farina was a chef with 30 years experience she didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. It doesn't sound like she was a home cook, it sounds like she had professional employment as a chef in Italy. This is different from say, bringing in a person from a third world country for example and holding them "hostage" so to speak.
                                                Second, I can't imagine that Farina would be so completely isolated in Queens as to not be able to remove herself from the situation. In fact, she's apparently "in hiding" in Queens, so she knows someone well enough to make that move.
                                                Third, it would make no sense at all for this individual to 'trust" that her pay was being deposited in an account. After all, as a chef for 30 years, you have SOME sort of business sense.
                                                Its pretty common for lawyers to use descriptive and colorful language to create a sense of something that just didn't happen. Their clients are rarey "upset", they are usually "outraged at the egregious abuse of blah blah blah". And anyone can file a lawsuit and make outrageous claims. I would be interested to know if the lawyer involved is on contingency...
                                                As for Lydia, well I have no opinion one way or the other. All I do know is that I really didn't like her son as he was depicted on America's Next Best Chef, and some may say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
                                                I'm interested to know how this plays out in the end, although I suspect it will be settled out of court and we really won't know what happened.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: freia

                                                  I haven't seen anything suggesting that the woman was anything but a chef, which could have meant in a private home, for all we know, or as a very small time business participant. In fact, all the things you cite strongly suggest the lack of sophistication that could lead a person to such an unfortunate situation based upon trust and promises. Living in metro NY, I'm aware of cases of enslavement and isolation other than this one; not so difficult to pull off, really.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    True, that, but I suspect those cases are more of indigent or very very vulnerable people who are brought into the country by third parties, who really are completely dependent on their employer. I suspect this woman isn't quite as indigent nor as vulnerable as portrayed. The ways I see it is if she was a chef in a private home (which is different from cooking staff in a private home) she must have been well known enough for Lidia to hear about her IF she was brought over under the guise of being a chef peer promoted by Lidia. I really don't think this woman is in the same category as a child who is abducted and held for years, nor an Indonesian girl from a small village brought over as a personal servant by a wealthy family. I guess we'll really never know, but I'm also pretty certain that I'm not going to take her lawyer's depiction of her at face value. And I'll bet he's on contingency, so for the lawyer there's really nothing ventured, nothing gained.
                                                    My best guess is that she came over under an agreement that didn't involve cooking but personally thought that she could find fame and fortune through Lidia and her connections, and when fame and fortune wasn't forthcoming, then she thought she'd get a few bucks out of the situation. And I'll bet Lidia thought she was going to employ a native Italian speaker for her friend on the cheap in exchange for airfare, room, board and pocket money. You need to remember that this kind of arrangement is typical in Italy. The number of personal assistant workers from other countries who work for room and board and pin money completely off the official record is astounding. So in Lidia's mind, she was hiring and doing what one normally does in Italy. Only this is the USA and rules are a wee bit different in this part of the world. Just my personal feeling on this, that's all, and like I said, we'll most likely never, ever know the truth.

                                                    1. re: freia

                                                      Lidia Bastianich has been a successful businesswoman in America for decades, and has lived most of her life here. I cannot believe she thought employing a foreigner under the table as a personal aide is the accepted norm in this country.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        You're right. I'll bet she knew it wasn't the norm. But I'll bet she did it anyways. There's no end of stories out there where workers regardless of immigration status are employed for cash off the books or who work in exchange for pin money, room and board. I'll bet this is just another one of those cases. After all, if everything WAS above board I doubt this lawsuit would have happened. Something shady happened, but I don't think it really was "enslavement".

                                                      2. re: freia

                                                        You're doing an awful lot of guessing and presuming about the woman, he lawyer and events and exoneration on the basis of your imaginings alone.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          Not much else one can do without a response from Lydia nor having the facts of the case before you, I think? And hey, its pretty much what everyone else does when a newspapers treat celebrity news just like any other news story. They wouldn't report it if there wasn't going to be some sort of public response/discussion. Public figures and scandalous allegations sell newspapers...its life, I suppose. The legal and celebrity worlds have become spectator sports so to speak. If you enter those arenas, be prepared for such allegations from employees and speculation from the general public about pretty much every aspect of your life. Sucks, but hey, noone forces anyone to be in the public eye. Its part of the price of being a public figure.
                                                          In any event, I reserve the right, as does every member of the public, to speculate and consider what is really happening behind the headlines. As do you. :)

                                                          1. re: freia

                                                            One can withhold passing judgment on anyone's veracity and the facts of the case unless and until information becomes available. That's my default position, anyway.

                                                            1. re: freia

                                                              Freia's theory is the same as mine.

                                                              1. re: Manassas64

                                                                Wildly speculative, you mean? ;-)

                                                    2. This thread is revived! Who made that "Beataly" comment? Still makes me laugh!! :)

                                                      1. Lidia's on Dr. Oz (sorry, i'm at my dad's, and he watches it every night!) and she has a nice modern haircut.

                                                        http://www.current-movie-reviews.com/...

                                                        oh that link doesn't show a pic of her.... maybe catch the show online. she's showing how to make her tomato-almond pesto.

                                                        14 Replies
                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                          "Nice modern haircut...." Do you mean that Lidia Bastianich CHANGED her hairstyle and no longer has that 12 year old boy haircut?

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            yes! it's still kinda boyish but now you can't see her bald spot.

                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                              That's what happens when you have cancer, I suppose, chemo trashes your hair...

                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                When did she go through chemo? She's had the same, in my opinion, uncomplimentary haircut for at least a dozen years.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  I could have sworn her son mentioned her and having cancer on that show he did with Gordon Ramsey and the other big dude..I don't even remember the name of that show (america's best home cook or something like that?) but I seem to recall this quite clearly. I'm pretty sure she's a breast cancer survivor, and I also recall seeing a tv show on Food Network featuring her where she talked about it and having chemo. All I can find online is this
                                                                  http://www.slashfood.com/2008/03/13/c...
                                                                  where it is mentioned.
                                                                  I guess she's kept it under wraps,choosing not to profit from her illness unlike some other celebrity chefs recently in the news? LOL

                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                    She has been bald for a very long time... she has the pattern of hair loss and the body shape of someone who's very insulin resistant. Not saying she is, I have no knowledge of that. But chemo hair often comes in thicker than ever, a new color, curly when it was straight, etc... maybe also thin, but not necessarily.

                                                          2. re: mariacarmen

                                                            She must have a weave, she's been bald for years, with spray on hair color.. lots of years.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              well it looks nice, and very natural.

                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                Good for her... and also for having been confident enough appearing nearly bald on TV for so many years, too. Seriously; in this botoxed, plumped up, lasered and chemically peeled age...

                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                  Hey, if I could frown at your response I would LOLOLOL...
                                                                  Very true, mcf...substance over style it seems, and doesn't that really win out in the end? At least, it should...

                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                    It didn't make me like to watch her cooking any less, it just made her look like an authentic granny in the kitchen. Yay for substance... Of course, now that I know she's literally a slave driver...

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      WORD...in a world of Sandra Lees, its nice to see a real representation, and isn't it interesting how the male chefs don't seem to face the same standard?

                                                            2. re: mariacarmen

                                                              She's been making the media rounds promoting her new cookbook. She was even on Greater Boston, a strictly local show on Boston's PBS affiliate.

                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                She's also touring to promote a movie remake of Spartacus. Its about....ahhh nevermind.