Five former employees of the 3-Zero Cafe are suing the Coastside restaurant because they say they were not fairly compensated for the time they put into their jobs. 

The employees — Cesar Garcia, Francisco Garcia, Freddy Gutierrez, Juan Gongora and Santiago de los Santos Cruz — all worked as part of the kitchen staff at the popular eatery at the Half Moon Bay Airport.

Cesar Garcia had been working as the kitchen manager and had been employed at the restaurant since 2003, according to the complaint, which was filed with the San Mateo County Court on Thursday. 

Cruz, a kitchen assistant who had been working at 3-Zero since 2002, had been there the longest. Francisco Garcia, a cook, had been hired in 2006, and the other two were employed in the summer of 2017.

The complaint alleges that the employees were asked to clock out at 4 or 5 p.m. whether they were done with their work or not. The men say that roughly two times per week they were asked to continue working, unpaid, after their clock-out time when they had been on the job since 6 or 7 a.m.

The complaint also alleges that they were not paid overtime correctly and weren’t provided proper breaks. Instead of receiving time and a half for more than eight hours worked or double pay for hours topping the 12-hour mark they were paid the same rate. Meal breaks were often not provided until after the restaurant closed at 2 p.m. By then, the complaint alleges, the employees had already put in more than five hours of work and were generally only given 20 minutes to “eat something quick and continue with the cleaning duties,” according to the complaint. 

The men say they were required to make work-related purchases such as non-slip work shoes and black T-shirts out of their own pockets.

Cafe owner Joseph Gore said on Tuesday that he was unaware of the lawsuit or the complaints raised by his employees. After a Review reporter emailed him the lawsuit, Gore stated he had never heard the allegations before.

“These employees have never spoken to me about any of these issues at any time in the many years I have employed them,” Gore wrote. 

On Aug. 25, for reasons not explained in the complaint, all five employees say they were reportedly terminated from their positions. The men hired the San Francisco-based Liberation Law Group to handle their case. 

Arlo Garcia Uriarte, an attorney with the firm, says that his office sent cafe owner Joseph Gore letters requesting documentation in advance of the lawsuit. Uriarte says Gore did not comply.

“(He) has threatened (the employees) and invited them to settle the case for very little money,” said Uriarte. He adds that Gore fired the employees in late August in retaliation and has allegedly threatened “great bodily harm” to the men, according to an Aug. 30 letter written to the defendant. 

In the complaint, the men are asking Gore for all unpaid regular wages and overtime pay over the last four years and compensation for denied rest and meal times. The plaintiffs are also seeking compensation for the costs associated with their attorney fees.

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