More than a year ago, the member of a Bergen, New Jersey country club was dining at its restaurant when a waiter spilled wine on her rare and expensive Hermes handbag, valued at $30,000. The member, Maryana Beyder, pursued compensation from the Alpine Country Club for the damage done to her personal item, and a year worth of negotiations followed. Once those negotiations fell apart, Mrs. Beyder sued the club for damages, expecting that the highly respected club would then mount a legal defense on its own behalf. She did not, however expect the club to respond by filing a lawsuit against its own employee.

Though cross claims are frequently seen in legal proceedings, the victim’s attorney made clear the imbalance represented by the elite country club suing its less advantaged employee was surprising. “basically what this is is that they’re asking the employee to pay whatever they owe under the law to my client,” the attorney said. “So they’re suing their own employee that they hired.”

The position that the country club and its insurance company initially took in the discussions about compensation involved the insurance company arguing against the club’s value. The particular Hermes Kelly bag had been given to Mrs. Beyder by her husband as a 30th birthday present, and is not easily replaced. Hermes is a highly prized luxury handbag maker. Their products often sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and a single bag sold at auction two years ago for nearly $400,000.

Mrs. Beyder’s lawsuit did not name the waiter as a defendant in her lawsuit against the country club, though he was referenced as “John Doe” in order to enable testimony from him as to what had happened. Her attorney made clear that the woman is not in any way blaming the waiter or holding him responsible, saying, “You go to any restaurant. You have a leather jacket on. 100 dollars. 50 dollars. 20 dollars. If a waiter spills on it and it’s destroyed, you’re expecting the restaurant to compensate you for that particular item.”
New Jersey employment law generally protects employees from liability or having deductions taken from their wages for breakage or other pay issues that are considered the liability of the employer. Restaurant workers and other employees have rights that protect them against that kind of charge.

Employees are vulnerable to many different types of unfair and discriminatory practices, but the state of New Jersey has passed many laws that aggressively protect them from being taken advantage of or harassed. Schorr & Associates represents employees in a wide range of employment disputes. If an employer is wrongfully deducting from pay, please feel free to call us for a free initial consultation.