MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – For the second time in less than a year, David’s Café in Miami Beach is under federal investigation for allegedly not paying some of its employees.
“Oh, yes. There is a very active investigation going on,” Will Garnitz, regional supervisor of the Department of Labor, told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald on Friday. He declined to release further details on the investigation.
Also Friday, 19 former workers filed a lawsuit against the restaurant’s owners.
“They have been able to get away with it because they keep saying that their corporation is bankrupt so they can’t afford to pay what they owe the workers,” said the group’s attorney Noah Warman. “But under the federal law (Fair Labor Standards Act), they themselves are liable for the abuse and for paying their workers with checks that bounce.”
Warman said the lawsuit seeks compensation from the restaurant’s owners, Alfredo and Maria Gonzalez and their adult children Alfredo, Jr. and Adrian, as well as Adrian’s wife Laura Collard-Gonzalez.
“They took advantage of these folks and are still operating [the restaurant],” Warman said. “That is absurd.”
David’s Cafe, a Cuban restaurant which opened in 1977, has been the target of several protests by former employees who claim they are owed more than $70,000 for months of work without pay. The group consists of former workers at David’s Cafe at 1058 Collins Ave. and David’s Cafe II, which closed in 2012, when its owners claimed they could no longer afford to pay rent.
In late December 2012, an official with Miami-Dade County assigned to the case, ruled in favor of 14 former restaurant workers and ordered David’s Cafe to pay triple the amount owed to each worker, plus administrative costs. Those workers have yet to receive payment.
Although the Gonzalez family has acknowledged they owe the money, they say their company has no funds to pay.
On Friday, Adrian Gonzalez did not return multiple messages left by el Nuevo Herald. His brother Alfredo Gonzalez Jr., an attorney for the prestigious Greenberg Traurig firm, also did not respond to calls and messages. The Gonzalez family has refused to talk to the press about the issue for months.
“We are taking this as far as we can because we want to set an example,’’ said Evelio Da Silva, one of the former restaurant workers who joined the lawsuit. “This does not only happen in David’s Cafe, but in many other places.’’
The restaurant is a frequent stop by local politicians who take part in Tuesday morning public discussions held there.
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower said Friday that she sympathizes with workers, some of whom she knows personally.
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