Female servers have never had it especially easy, so I wasn't shocked to learn that a Mexican restaurant/bar in Brooklyn hasn't been so great to its waitresses. Three former waitresses of Bushwick's 'La Fogata' have teamed up to press charges against the venue for making its female employees drink excessively and get male customers to buy them overpriced alcoholic beverages, among other things.
Patricia Sanchez, who used to work at La Fogata, attests that her managers failed to pay minimum wage, illegally took money out of her paycheck, and fined her and other waitresses "for every little thing." And by "every little thing," she means wearing a skirt that's too long or spilling water. If a customer failed to pay his/her bill, the waitresses allegedly had to cover the charges. Not only did the ladies lose money when they should have been making it, but put themselves at risk by following their boss' orders to party hard with male clientele.
"We are the ones who are damaging our health with the drinks ... from 10 to 15 drinks a night," 34-year-old Sanchez, who is also a single mom, told the New York Daily News.
Ten to 15 drinks is a lot for anyone, let alone parents with children, schedules, bills, and you know, health, to worry about. But when there's a will, there's a way, and the female waitresses were put into a bad position when they were told they could take home fatter paychecks by imbibing heavily and schmoozing with male customers. As reported by the Daily News, "The more they drink, the more they earn. Customers buy the waitresses — who are largely undocumented immigrants from Mexico or Central America — drinks at inflated prices, and the women collect cash for every $20 tequila shot or $16 large bottle of Corona they down." The three women went on to say that every new hire at La Fogata endures sexual harassment from management. What a way to acclimate to a new position.
Of course, one of the owners, who refused to be identified by name, denied the allegations and said the waitresses were spewing lies. The nameless fellow also posed the question, "If the job was so bad, why did they stay?"
You can ask that about any bad job, but the answer usually comes down to this: everyone has to make a living, and the reality is that there's a certain level of abuse we all have to put up with at work. It can be anything from working overtime without pay to office bullying, both of which are anything but fun to encounter. This kind of abuse, however, is totally unacceptable, and the owners should consider themselves lucky that none of their female servers died from alcohol poisoning or got sexually assaulted on the clock. Perhaps this lawsuit will prevent both of those things from ever happening at La Fogata.