New York restaurant forces waitresses to drink with customers

Protest against La Fogata restaurant 
By: Sanvi Rizvi 

A group of waitresses have filed a lawsuit claiming that their employer forced them to drink with customers and suffered from sexual harassment, according to court documents.

Labor abuses and insults have become too much to swallow for the group of immigrant women working as waitresses getting customers to buy beers and expensive tequila shots.

"We have decided to end the abuse, stealing our wages and having been fined for every little thing," Patricia Sanchez, who sued her former bosses at La Fogata, a Mexican restaurant and bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn, said.

She said that the boss does not pay the minimum wage and that money is illegally deducted from her salary.

The dangers of working in these nightspots, which are tailored to immigrant men, include everything from wage theft to sexual harassment by administrators and health problems.

The owners attract customers by hiring waitresses who make most of their money after the kitchen closes, partying, dancing and drinking, often in excess with customers.

The more they drink, the more they earn. Customers buy waitresses much of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico or Central America, drinks at inflated prices, and women collect cash for every bottle of tequila sold.

Sanchez and two coworkers who also filed a lawsuit in federal court last month, said waitresses at La Fogata were fined $10 for things like spilling water or not appearing in fairly short skirts. If customers leave without pay, it is taken out of the pockets of the waitresses, they said.

"Girls who do not sell drinks, do not get paid," Rosa Vidal, 37, said. The women said that each new employee at La Fogata faces sexual harassment by managers.