West Covina restaurant server alleges age-related layoff – NBC Los Angeles
A 63-year-old former longtime waitress at El Torito restaurant in West Covina is suing the Mexican restaurant chain’s parent company, alleging she was wrongfully fired earlier this year because of her age and for taking time off after contracting the coronavirus.
Laura Christie’s allegations in Pomona Superior Court against FM Restaurants HQ LLC include wrongful termination, disability and age discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, failure to s engage in the interactive process and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Christie seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“During the period from January 2020 to February 2022, the defendants engaged in concerted efforts to socially and physically exclude the plaintiff from her employment with the defendants and either force her to resign or fabricate a reason to terminate her” , alleges the suit.
A representative from Cypress-based FM Restaurants headquarters could not immediately be reached for comment on the June 3 complaint.
Christie was hired at El Torito in 2000 and her server duties included greeting guests, taking food and drink orders and ensuring food and drink were delivered in a timely manner, the lawsuit states. She was being paid $14 an hour when she was fired, the lawsuit says.
“For nearly the first two decades of her employment with (El Torito), the plaintiff was treated well by the defendants,” the suit states. “However, as soon as (Christie) turned 61, she faced harassment and discrimination because of her age.”
In early 2020, managers at the Garvey Avenue restaurant made comments such as “You’re too old,” “You’re getting old,” and “You need to retire,” the lawsuit says. The coronavirus pandemic began around this time and it was used as an excuse to cut Christie’s weekly work schedule to two days, according to the suit.
Christie tested positive for COVID-19 last August and had life-threatening symptoms related to her age and pre-existing medical conditions, so she contacted the restaurant’s general manager and informed him, the suit says. He told her to rest and let him know when she tested negative, according to the suit.
Chrisite was later admitted to Pomona Valley Medical Center, diagnosed with COVID-19-induced pneumonia, and then underwent plasma infusion and a lung booster injection, according to the lawsuit.
Christie tested negative on September 1 and told the general manager, who said he would plan to return to work later that month, the suit states.
Having heard nothing from the restaurant, she contacted the manager and asked to be put back on the work schedule, to which he replied “OK,” the lawsuit says.
Christie heard nothing more from the restaurant until she received an email on January 28 stating that due to her inability to show up for two scheduled work days in July, ‘We are considering this like your resignation,’ the suit reads. However, the general manager later told her that there was a greater demand for employees to work evenings and that the plaintiff was being fired because she could only work during the day, the suit says.
The story changed again in a subsequent meeting with a human resources representative who told Christie that she had been terminated for an “absence” months earlier, even though the complainant provided communications documents. between her and the manager and the general manager regarding her health since her last day of work on July 7, the lawsuit states.
Christie alleges the real reasons she was fired were related to her age, her acquisition of the coronavirus and for taking sick leave and requesting accommodations, the suit says.