You work at your job for one major reason: to get paid. But if your boss refuses to pay you, what can you do? It’s why one South Florida waitress called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
A great meal at a nice restaurant is so much fun, and of course don’t forget how important the person bringing your food to you is.
Erica DeSouza: “I love it. It’s fast paced. I love it.”
Erica has been a waitress for 40 years, and not only loves her good customers but even the grumpy ones.
Erica DeSouza: “You just have to know how to smooth them and fix it. You fix it. They’re good, and then they’re going to love you forever.”
Then she went to work for a small restaurant in Davie.
Erica DeSouza: “The minute I walked in, I felt like I was at home. He hired me. I started the next day.”
Erica worked there for a year, putting in 40-50 hours a week.
Erica DeSouza: “Everything. I waited tables, I did the specials, I did the menu.”
A lot of work, just not a lot of paychecks.
Erica DeSouza: “I only got seven, and I was there for just about a year, and I had a paycheck.”
That’s right. A paycheck every six weeks ranging from $294 to $1,172, and she did complain to the owner.
Erica DeSouza: “He would constantly say, ‘I’m waiting for my accountant to come in. I’m waiting for my accountant.’”
She survived on her tips, so my obvious question, why work at a place where the paychecks don’t always show up?
Erica DeSouza: “Because I’m, I’m an idiot, and I felt like they were family. I like them. I wanted them to succeed. I did so many hours on my own time.”
Then, one day, she had enough and asked her boss for the paychecks he owed her.
Erica DeSouza: “I believe he owes me $6,000, and he started yelling at me, and I started yelling at him on the phone, and I said, I quit, and I’m going to the labor board now.”
And Erica did contact the Federal Labor Board’s Wage and Hour division about the Garden Grill restaurant in Davie.
In an email to me, a spokesperson wrote they discovered violations and back wages due, but the employer refused to pay, leaving Erica at a dead end.
Erica DeSouza: “And I tried calling him. He blocked me off everything. I went above and beyond for them. That whole menu is me. I made them money, and they know that.”
Well, Howard, is Erica out of luck?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Even if you can’t afford a lawyer to sue the restaurant, you are not out of luck. In this case, when Erica wasn’t paid, that violated minimum wage law, and the good news for Erica, the same law mandates that the restaurant has to pay her attorney if she wins, and not only does Erica get her back wages. In this case, she can get double the amount she is owed.”
I called the owner of the Garden Grill restaurant in Davie a half dozen times. He never responded.
We went to the restaurant and were told the owner was not there. We left a card, he didn’t call.
Erica DeSouza: “In the way he’s acting, by just ignoring everybody.”
We then put Erica in touch with an attorney who sues on behalf of employees who are owed wages, so she can simply get what she is owed.
Erica DeSouza: “I just want my money.”
That’s not asking too much, Erica, because when you are living paycheck to paycheck, missing paychecks can cause all kinds of problems.
Now, if your boss owes you money, don’t put up with it, contact the Federal Wage and Hour Division, Miami-Dade, or Broward Wage Recovery Office.
Working to solve a problem? Need someone to put in some overtime to help? It pays to check with us to wage a battle for you.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.