Worker Standing Up for Other Coworkers in Ithaca Restaurant, Green CafÃ©, Leads to Major Back Wages and Fines of Over $1,000,000 in Both Ithaca and New York City Restaurants [VIDEO]
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) has just discovered this week that the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) has levied fines for over $623,000 against Charles Park, the owner of the now-closed Green CafÃ© that was located in the Collegetown section of Ithaca. This is the result of a complaint lodged by the TCWC back in November 2009 when a young worker, a cashier, Anna Ottoson, resigned due to witnessing unfair treatment of other workers.
After resigning, Ottoson brought several back-of-the-house workers to the TCWC to get justice for their claim of not having been paid for several months; minimum wage violations; not being paid overtime; and not being given a day of rest. The owner provided housing for the vast majority of workers at three apartments on Warren Road in Ithaca. “I couldn’t take watching my friends be taken advantage of anymore, so when I left I did what I had been promising to them and came to the Workers’ Center who then helped me to make the complaint to the DOL.”
When initially contacting the DOL’s Bureau of Immigrant Rights, the TCWC was able to soon discover that the Evergreen Gourmet Deli (also owned by Charles Park) in New York City had been a Wage and Hour violator in the past, thus helping to spark an investigation of the New York City restaurant. Fines against the NYC restaurant are over $377,000.
Fernando Almaraz, one of the leading victims of ‘wage and hour violations’ in the Ithaca restaurant said, “I am so happy because everyone is going to get their pay, because we worked so hard. Thanks to Anna Ottoson, and thanks to the Workers’ Center. Anna was a cashier, and just realized she was tired about this. She felt bad about how hard we worked”.
[2 minute video of Ana Ottoson, former Green Cafe worker in Ithaca who brought forth claim of unfair treatment of coworkers, and her story.]
The Ithaca Green CafÃ© Restaurant closed back in April of 2010, perhaps making it difficult to collect these back wages and fines; however, the New York City restaurant, Evergreen Gourmet Deli is still open for business. The TCWC intends to pursue all legal means on behalf of the workers owed back wages, including being in contact with the New York State Attorney General’s Labor Bureau Chief, as well as seeking private counsel.