Employees of Popular Beverly Hills Bar and Restaurant File Lawsuit in response to Years-Long Scheme to Steal Wages

Posted on August 22, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bet Tzedek Contact: Allison Lee, alee@bettzedek.org

 

August 19, 2019, LOS ANGELES, CA – Bet Tzedek and Handley Farah & Anderson filed a lawsuit on behalf of current and former employees of Caffe Roma, a popular bar and restaurant in Beverly Hills frequented by Hollywood elites, alleging that for years Caffe Roma and its owners have wrongly withheld tips owed to the workers and failed to provide meal and rest breaks required under California law. 

This case highlights an injustice faced by restaurant workers across the country.  With over 14 million employees nationwide, the restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing private sector employers in the nation. Unfortunately, despite the growth and profitability of the industry, restaurant jobs provide largely low wages.  Theft by employers of even these low wages is all too common. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are members of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, whose mission is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce.  With a membership of over 25,000 people who work in restaurants, over 300 high-road employers and thousands of engaged consumers united for raising restaurant industry standards, ROC has campaigned for and won millions of dollars for workers whose tips and wages have been misappropriated by their employers.

Commenting on the scope of the wage theft scheme at issue in this case, Plaintiffs’ counsel Sebastian Sanchez, staff attorney at Bet Tzedek, said, “The owners of Caffe Roma have used employees’ tips to unlawfully subsidize payment of their managerial staff. Furthermore, they have denied meal and rest breaks to its employees as required by California law, frequently requiring workers to complete 13-hour shifts without any breaks at all.”

If you have any questions concerning this case or would like to share your experience working for Caffe Roma, please contact Sebastian Sanchez at 323-648-4708 or ssanchez@bettzedek.org, or Matthew Handley, at 202-559-2411 or mhandley@hfajustice.com. A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Quotes from Linda Rijel, member of the Los Angeles Chapter of ROC (plaintiff) and former worker at Caffe Roma[1]:

 “This case shines a light on pervasive, continuous abuses that have occurred in the restaurant industry. They have been getting away with it and exploiting their workers.”

Linda Rijel, former worker at Caffe Roma

“This case is important to create awareness among the consumers of Beverly Hills what can occur to the people that serve them in restaurants.”

“I once had to work an 11-and-a-half hour shift and wasn’t able to stop to go to the bathroom or eat anything the whole day. That day, my ankles were swollen, I was completely dehydrated, and I hadn’t been able to go to the restroom all day. People don’t know how hard on your body waiting tables is. And to add to that, the manager in the back was taking my tips.”

“Restaurants need to make sure that waiters can go to the restroom or drink a glass of water.”

“At Caffe Roma money was more important to the owners than the workers’ health, our well-being and ultimately, our humanity.”

“I hope this lawsuit is a banner of hope to employees that are being mistreated by dishonest restaurant owners, because action is always spurred through hope.”

Quote from Bet Tzedek: “Los Angeles has the inglorious distinction of being the wage theft capital of the county, with low-wage workers losing more than $25 million in stolen wages each week,” Jenna Miara, directing attorney at Bet Tzedek, said “When employers break wage-and-hour laws, it hurts workers, their families, and our communities, not to mention other employers who play by the rules.  The plaintiffs in this case are sending a strong message that wage theft will not be tolerated.”

Quote from Handley Farah & Anderson: Plaintiffs’ counsel Matthew Handley stated, “Caffe Roma believed that it could misappropriate employees’ tips and deny them meal and rest breaks in violation of clear California law.  This case will hopefully send a message that such a business model is not only flawed, but illegal, and must be stopped.”

Quote from the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA): “Restaurant workers face many challenges that make their work and life difficult, an inconsistent schedule, retaliation, sexual harassment and wage theft to mention some, problems that sadly in 2019 are still happening in several of your local eateries. Caffe Roma workers reached out to ROC LA to voice their concerns about what was happening in their workplace, with guidance and the collaboration with Bet-Tzedek we are able to stand with the workers and restore the balance of power at their workplace.”

About Bet Tzedek

Bet Tzedek is committed to providing free legal services to those that need them most. Bet Tzedek attorneys and advocates help people of all communities and generations secure life’s necessities. Wherever people are in crisis, Bet Tzedek’s core services and rapid response programs provide stability and hope. Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek – Los Angeles’ House of Justice – helps over 40,000 people each year.

About Handley Farah & Anderson

Handley Farah & Anderson are lawyers who seek to improve the world.  Based in Washington, D.C., they fight for: workers deprived of wages, consumers deceived about products, tenants denied access to housing, farmers mistreated by processors, parents deprived of adequate parental leave, investors who were defrauded, small businesses harmed by antitrust violations, persons with disabilities denied access, whistleblowers who uncover fraud, and women and communities of color subject to discrimination.

About the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA)

The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA), is part of ROC-United a member-based organization that its mission is to better the lives of restaurant workers across the United States of America. ROC-LA was established in Los Angeles 10 years ago as part of the progressive ordinance in southern California supporting the increase of the minimum wage, implementation of paid sick days and paid family leave and working together with the Los Angeles Worker Center Network, a set of community-based organizations that help to improve the working conditions of different industries and sectors of the population.

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[1] Linda is available for interviews.

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