The former nanny for a manager at the upscale New York eatery Scarpetta is suing her ex-boss over conditions she has compared to “modern-day indentured servitude.”
Cindy Carter filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court this week alleging she was “treated like property” by the restaurant’s manager James Ragonese and his wife, Nicole, the New York Post reported.
The 16-page complaint makes several shocking claims against the Long Island couple, including that the Ragoneses treated their children’s nanny like a “slave,” forcing her to sleep in the pool shed and even unclog the family’s toilet. Carter, who’s from Barbados, said James Ragonese also made her refer to him as “boss man” while on the job.
“It hurt so bad I cried,’’ she told The Post. “I didn’t know what to do.’’
The 44-year-old caretaker claims she was paid a mere $300 per week while working 71 to 120 hours weekly between March 2016 and this past February when she was let go, according to her suit. Carter’s food situation wasn’t much better, as she claims she was typically given left-over scraps from the high-end eatery, which serves dishes like braised octopus, chickory salad and veal tenderloin with gnocchi alla romana.
The documents also allege Carter was “prohibited from cooking food when Defendants’ were home (because, as Nicole Ragonese stated, ‘Caribbean food is disgusting’).”
“[Carter] spent her entire day either taking care of Defendants’ child (cleaning, feeding, monitoring, entertaining, etc.), cleaning the house, weeding the lawn and flower beds, watering the lawn during the Summer (as Defendants did not have a sprinkler system), doing laundry, or otherwise responding to Defendants’ every whim,” it continues.
Her duties didn’t end there, however. The former nanny was reportedly forced to perform tasks totally unrelated to her job, including plunging a stopped up toilet, the lawsuit states.
According to Carter, the Ragoneses initially made her a room in the attic but then moved her to the basement of their Williston Park, Long Island, home. The family later moved to Port Washington in October 2018, where Carter states they gave her a bedroom on the second floor while they constructed room for her in the basement.
However, it was during a family vacation to the Hamptons when Carter says the Ragoneses forced her to stay in a poorly ventilated storage shed where the pool chemicals were kept. Carter said wife Nicole told her she could “leave the door open” if the fumes got to be too much, according to the lawsuit.
Dustin Levine, an attorney for the Ragoneses, has vehemently denied the allegations made against his clients and says Carter’s lawsuit is payback for the couple having her arrested for keying their car. The former nanny now faces misconduct charges related to the incident.
“I think they’re completely exaggerated and unfounded,” Levine told The Post, adding that the Ragoneses paid for Carter’s hotel stay after her arrest because she had nowhere else to go.
“She lived in their home, they treated her as family,” he added.
Carter’s lawyer, Justin Marino, tells a different story, however, and said his client called the police herself after a male friend of Mr. Ragonese made inappropriate remarks toward her.
This isn’t the first time Carter has a sued a wealthy white couple for allegedly keeping her in slave-like conditions. In 2006, the Bajan immigrant filed suit against Doanld and Fontaine Sheridan, whom she claimed physically abused her, referred to her using racial slurs and threatened to have her deported.
Like the Ragoneses, Carter said the Sheridans paid her a pittance of $300 for working an undue amount of hours. Her case soon caught the attention of the Domestic Workers United union, which used Carter as an example of the pervasive abuse and exploitation often faced by domestic workers, the Courthouse News Service reported.
The union protested and painted the couple as “racists who physically abused and economically exploited their domestic worker.”
As reported by The Post, Carter is now suing the Ragoneses for alleged violations of state and federal wage provisions and noncompliance with notice/record-keeping requirements, among other things, and is seeking various damages, including an award for unpaid wages and overtime.