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Restaurant Workers Sue for Unpaid Wages

SAN ANTONIO — A local franchisee for Subway, Great American Cookies and Marble Slab Creamery is facing a federal lawsuit that alleges he failed to pay employees overtime wages and for hours worked off the clock.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by five former workers, but seeks certification as a collective action on behalf of an estimated 125 food-service workers currently or formerly employed by various defendants.

The franchisers are not parties to the lawsuit.

Sammy Aldeeb, a principal of the various franchise operations, denied he has shortchanged employees.

“This obviously never happened. We would never do this,” Aldeeb said. “My success in this industry only happens through the hard work of my employees and keeping them happy.

“If my employees are not happy, then my customers are not happy,” he added.

Aldeeb said he wasn’t aware of the suit until contacted by a reporter. According to the suit, he operates at least eight franchise locations. They have addresses in San Antonio and Boerne.

Representing the workers are the San Antonio offices of the Equal Justice Center and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Both nonprofit organizations assist low-wage working people who claim wage-rights violations.

The organizations allege workers were not paid for all of the hours they worked and did not receive 1.5 times their regular pay for each hour worked beyond 40 hours in a given week.

“Nonpayment of overtime and other wage and hour violations are common throughout the restaurant industry,” said Philip J. Moss, an attorney for the Equal Justice Center.

Claire Rodriguez, also an attorney for the group, acknowledged that it didn’t contact Aldeeb before filing the suit. That’s because some former employees would lose their right to make a claim under a statute of limitations if they waited to file, she explained.

Among the named plaintiffs is Brenda Pacheco, who worked at Aldeeb’s Marble Slab Creamery and Great American Cookies stores. In a statement released by the two nonprofit organizations, Pacheco said, “I worked many overtime hours, time that I was away from my family, and I believe I was not paid properly for that time.”

Rodriguez said businesses that fail to properly pay workers under requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act are able to keep costs down and operate more profitably — at the expense of competitors.

“This is unfair to competition because it allows them to violate the law and keep their labor costs down, which drives out businesses (that) are complying with the law,” Rodriguez said. “It gives them an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”

The suit seeks certification as a collective action, which would give other workers the option of joining the lawsuit.

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