EDWARDSVILLE — A former waiter at the El Mezcal Restaurant in Godfrey has filed suit against the business, claiming they were paying him no wages for three years and required him to endorse his paycheck over to the managers.
Carlos Olvera named the restaurant, its parent corporation and managers Robert Gonzalez and Susan Gonzalez.
Olvera was employed by the restaurant from June 2006 until November 2013, but he was terminated in November 2013.
The suit claims that Olvera reported the underpayments to the Illinois Department of Labor, which investigated. The defendants assumed that Olvera was the one who made the complaints. He also assisted others in filing complaints.
The suit claims the plaintiff worked from 52-56 hours per week between 2006 and 2009.
“From 2006 until 2009, defendants did not pay plaintiff any wage whatsoever; plaintiff was given paychecks but was required by defendants to endorse his paychecks and return the checks to defendants,” the suit claims.
The suit alleges that Olvera was allowed to keep his tip money but required him to pay $12 per day to the busboys. “Defendant Robert Gonzalez told plaintiff that plaintiff and the other waiters paid the busboys’ wages,” the suit alleges.
From 2010, until Olvera was terminated, he worked five days a week for about 42 hours per week. From 2009 to 2013, the defendants paid the plaintiff $4.95 per hour.
“Defendants allowed plaintiff to keep most of the money he earned in tips but required him to deposit approximately $6 per day Sunday through Thursday and $7 per day Friday through Saturday into the the restaurant cash register. Defendants also continued to require plaintiff to pay approximately $12 per day to the busboys,” the suit claims.
The suit alleges that between 2010 and 2013, defendants did not pay Olvera for his total hours worked.
“Defendants frequently reported plaintiff’s hours worked as less than his actual hours worked, and defendants never paid plaintiff for more than 36 hours worked per week,” the suit claims.
Illinois law provides that the defendants are required to pay minimum wage for all hours worked from 2006 until 2009 and overtime for hours more than 40 hours per week.
The suit also claims the defendants must reimburse cash payments made to the restaurant made between 2009 and 2013. The suit is also asking for attorneys’ fees, expenses and damages in accordance with the Illinois Minimum Wage Law.
The suit is asking for damages as a result of the restaurant owners’ response to the Labor Department complaint. They had a meeting with the plaintiff in late 2012. The became angry and told Olvera he should not have filed the complaint or assisted others.
“After this 2012 meeting, defendants Robert Gonzalez and Susan Gonzales became hostile towards plaintiff and harassed him in the workplace. Roberto Gonzalez and Susan Gonzales repeatedly screamed at him, and on one occasion, Roberto Gonzalez briefly choked plaintiff in an apparent effort to instigate a fight,” the suit alleges.
The operators allegedly “gave” Olvera time off for his having filed complaints. The former waiter objected and showed up because he wanted to keep working to make money. When he showed up for work, he was fired, the suit alleges.
The suit alleges the firing was in retaliation for his exercise of his rights under the Illinois Minimum Wage law.
“Defendants retaliation was intentional and malicious,” the suit alleges.
The suit also includes a count for “conversion” in which Olvera alleges they took his money and used it for themselves.
The three-count suit is asking for at least $75,000 in each count. Susan Gonzalez said the claims are “not true.” Olvera is represented by Lee W. Barron of Alton.