Former Server Settles Suit Over Job Loss for Reporting Alleged Sewer Leak

Olive Garden restaurant in South San Francisco Bay Area

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Olive Garden server reached a tentative settlement in his lawsuit against the restaurant chain in which he alleged 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.

Plaintiff  Kyle Wise's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleged whistleblower retaliation, wrongful constructive termination and fraud. The court papers included a color photo allegedly depicting the spill. He sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed in January 2021.

On April 14, Wise's lawyer, Alyssa K. Schabloski, filed a notice of conditional settlement with Judge Bruce G. Iwasaki. No terms were divulged and the court papers stated the accord was dependent the occurrence of unspecified events, with a request for dismissal to likely be filed by June 15.

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 stated. 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 alleged.

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 stated.

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 alleged 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 stated.

Wise said 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 stated.

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 stated.

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 alleged.

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 alleged.

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