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San Antonio Express News
February 11, 2014
BY PATRICK DANNER
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.
For Immediate Release
February 6, 2014
Contact Michael O’Keefe Cowles, Attorney, Equal Justice Center – Dallas
Dallas Hearing on Feb. 7 to address controversial changes to federal courts
A hearing on proposed changes to alter the federal rules of civil procedures is set for Friday, Feb. 7, in Dallas. The proposed rule changes would significantly alter our legal system, making it much harder for poor people, small businesses, and all those with minimal resources to access the justice system and have their day in court.
Opponents of the proposed changes include national and state-wide civil rights and workers’ rights organizations as well as local private lawyers, including the NAACP, the Equal Justice Center, Alliance for Justice, National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, and many others.
“These changes would create an unnecessary hurdle for working class people to exercise their rights and have their day in court. The changes fundamentally alter the balance in the justice system in favor of big corporate interests,” said Michael O’Keefe Cowles, head of the Dallas office of the Equal Justice Center.
“Currently poor and working class people already face barriers to the justice system because their claims are often for minimal amounts, and they often cannot obtain an attorney. The proposed rules would further restrict access to justice for these people by restricting what information litigants could have access to when facing bigger and much more well-funded corporate opponents,” said Cowles.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establish how civil lawsuits are filed, pursued, and tried in federal courts. The proposed Rules changes would severely limit discovery, decrease the number and length of depositions and remove incentives to preserve critical documents. This will have a chilling effect on civil rights, employment discrimination, and other protections because the information needed to prove these types of case is often in the sole possession of the corporation.