A former Olive Garden server is suing the restaurant chain, alleging he was induced to resign in retaliation for complaining that he and fellow employees were ordered to keep working after a 2019 sewer leak in the kitchen of the Glendale location.
Kyle Wise’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges whistleblower retaliation, wrongful constructive termination and fraud. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Monday.
An Olive Garden representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
On Jan. 20, 2019, sewer water began to bubble up from a drain in the Glendale restaurant on Brand Boulevard for the second time in about a week, the suit states. Employees trudged through the water, which splashed onto clean plates, utensils and other items stored on shelves near the floor, according to the suit.
“To Mr. Wise’s knowledge, the plates and other items were not re-washed, but kept available for food service,” the suit alleges.
Wise, who had started working at the eatery about two months before, alleges he reported his concerns about the unsanitary conditions, arguing against continuing to serve diners potentially sewer-contaminated food. But the restaurant’s management directed him and the other employees to go on serving diners, the suit says.
Wise told his customers that he was uncomfortable serving them due to the unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and they left, but other employees kept serving their patrons’ tables, according to his court papers, which allege the sewer water reached a depth of about two inches in the kitchen.
“Management’s unsafe and unsanitary attempts to resolve the problem included directing an employee to put his bare hands into a drain to remove any blockage (but) the disgusting directive did little to stop the leak,” the suit states.
Wise says he twice reported the incident to Cal/OSHA, and alleges the restaurant finally was closed after a woman slipped on sewer water that seeped from a drain in the women’s restroom.
In the week after Wise reported the sewer leak, management called him into the office and told him his shifts that week were cut to part-time and he was being taken off the next week’s schedule entirely, the suit says.
On Jan. 27, 2019, the restaurant’s general manager told Wise that he had to resign to receive his final paycheck, an alleged violation of the state Labor Code, the suit states.
The general manager knew fired employees are entitled to their final paycheck on their last day of work, but convinced Wise to sign a document indicating he voluntarily resigned in order to cover up what was a retaliatory termination, the suit alleges.
Wise’s health and career have been negatively affected and irreparably harmed by the conduct of the restaurant management, which punished him for reporting unsafe and unsanitary conditions in its kitchen, the suit alleges.
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