La Casa restaurant owner target of lawsuit

The Worker Justice Center of New York has filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of New York against La Casa Restaurant, a local Mexican restaurant, and its owner Lyjha Wilton alleging widespread labor violations and other unlawful acts over the course of many months. The charges were brought on behalf of a local family, Maria Bocanegra (Mia), Omar Ramos, and their daughter.The lawsuit paints a landscape of manipulation and exploitation by restaurant owner Wilton, who offered Mia and Omar a chance at the American dream by owning and running their own business — a dream that quickly dissolved. The suit details the family’s hard work and effort put forth to create, open, and maintain La Casa Restaurant for a period of more than eleven months and highlights the pivotal role the family played in La Casa’s success by developing the menus, decorating the restaurant, and cultivating a loyal customer base. From January to October of 2013, the family allegedly worked over seven thousand hours–typically opening and closing the restaurant and often working for more than fifteen hours a day.The complaint alleges that Wilton strung the family along with promises of remuneration and an eventual ownership interest in the business, but failed to deliver on any of them. Despite their loyalty to owner Wilton and tireless commitment to ensure La Casa’s success, the complaint alleges that Mia, Omar, and their daughter never received any wages for work performed and were instead defrauded of approximately $50,000 of personal savings they invested into the business. All told, the family alleges that they are owed several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid wages and other damages.WJCNY staff attorney David O. Irving states: “The alleged wage theft and other violations at La Casa are all too common in our experience representing low wage workers, particularly in sectors such as service, where employers routinely cut corners and disregard basic labor standards to make a profit. We will continue to fight on behalf of our clients in this case, as well as all low wage workers, to address these widespread abuses head on.”

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