A former dishwasher at the popular 116 Crown bar and restaurant is claiming to be owed $15,000 in unpaid overtime wages that he says accumulated throughout two years of employment there.
Edgar Sandoval, who filed a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Labor two weeks ago, stood outside 116 Crown during rush hour yesterday with a support rally of activists from Unidad Latina en Accion, (ULA) as a slew of happy hour patrons looked on from the establishment’s window.
Sandoval says that he worked between 65 and 100 hours per week without receiving overtime compensation.
“I’m not asking for favors,” Sandoval said through a megaphone. “I’m not asking for nothing for free. I’m asking for something I already earned.”
He says that he started out making $13 an hour before leaving the bar after his first year. Sandoval says he was fired for seeking a raise, but owners John and Danielle Ginetti claim that he quit. Sandoval returned to his position, only this time for a $750 per week salary. He calculated what he feels he should have been getting in overtime based on what he was previously being paid hourly.
“They were saying that revenue was low, so they didn’t want to put me on for as many hours,” Sandoval said. “But I was probably working the same amount of hours.”
Then, he says, a couple of other staff members were let go of and he was the only remaining dishwasher. Sandoval says that he asked them for a raise again, and was fired at the end of October. His employers, however, say that-like the last time-he left on his own and that they “were on good terms”.
The group of about 15 demonstrators formed a moving picket just outside 116 Crown while a giant inflatable rat stood behind about 10 other protesters across the street. The chanted calls for patrons to “boycott 116” was reminiscent of a year-long protest campaign ULA ran against Gourmet Heaven owner Chung Cho, who was ordered by the DOL to pay $140,000 of the $250,000 in back wages he was found to have owed former workers.
“A person who doesn’t pay overtime is a criminal,” said ULA organizer John Lugo. “And as criminal as all these other restaurants in New Haven, like Gourmet Heaven, Good Fellas, and all these other restaurants taking advantage of the workers.”
But inside 116 Crown, John Ginetti told a different story. He denies owing Sandoval $15,000 in overtime wages, and says that when ULA approached him with the allegations a couple of weeks ago, he welcomed a DOL investigation.
“We wanted to introduce a third party to moderate this,” Ginetti said. “We’re happy that they’re involved because the rest of this felt less official.”
He’s referring to the protest, which he says, caught him by surprise.
“We fundamentally disagree with the amount [of money Sandoval claims to be owed] and the way this is being done,” Ginetti said.
Lugo says that when he approached Ginetti about the overtime allegations, the owner pointed to the fact that Sandoval by then was in a salaried position.
“A kitchen job is like any manual labor,” Lugo said. “It should be paid by the hour, and after that person has been working for more than 40 hours, that person should be paid overtime.”
At his old rate, Sandoval would have made $845 for a 65 hour work week before calculating for time and a half. At his maximum 100 hours, compensation before overtime would have been $1300.
But Ginetti says that the move to salaried compensation wasn’t an attempt to short Sandoval.
“I think anytime somebody works salary it’s a good way to make them know that they’re doing a good job,” Ginetti said. “He wasn’t just some guy. He had a key to the restaurant-an alarm code. He wasn’t just a dishwasher.”