Juan Noboa, one of the owners of Café Atlantic accused of non-payment of wages by former employees, “denies that he hasn’t paid people proper wages,” said his lawyer Dawn Oliveri.
Further, Oliveri assured me that she knows Noboa as “a very respectable business man.”
She intends to fight the allegations made by Fuerza Laboral on behalf of workers who have claimed that Noboa owes thousands of dollars for work done at Café Atlantic, a restaurant Noboa opened in September of last year and then closed shortly after.
Oliveri questioned the tactic of protesting outside a man’s home in the early morning, telling me that Noboa claims that one of his children was awoken by the protesters and “terrified.” She added, “You don’t protest at a man’s home in the dark.”
Oliveri also questioned the using word “thief” by the protesters in describing their former employer. “I hope they can substantiate their case,” she warned.
Our short conversation revolved around tactics. In Oliveri’s opinion the proper place for the protesters to state their case was at the closed restaurant, located at 1366 Chalkstone Ave, where the alleged wage theft took place. She then added, “I have a lot of respect for civil disobedience and so does Juan.”
Complaints of non-payment of wages against Noboa and his partner, Jose Bren, have been filed by several employees with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training over the last few months. In one complaint, Edwin says he was hired to work in the kitchen and claims that he is owed $700.
“Juan said he would pay some of the beginning wages in cash but only paid part. [Noboa said] the checks were set up but he didn’t bring them on Friday and then another excuse. Tomorrow. Then for Sunday but no one showed up. That Monday Juan and Chino assured me that all would be there money wise on Wednesday nobody again then or that week until a meeting with Chino.”
Jared, hired to be a front line cook, says that he was paid for the first week but not thereafter. He claims to be owed $462.
Flor Salazar was hired as an administrative assistant and claims she is owed $7,332.50. According to the complaint she filed, payment of the money owed her, “was requested, but [Noboa] never replied in person, only by phone and he refused to answer. We asked for a meeting so we could come to an agreement and he refused.” [Spanish translation provided by Tony Houston]
A worker named Oscar says he is owed $7,803. He wrote in his complaint that when he tried to find out why he wasn’t getting paid, Noboa, “never gave a valid reason, he just disappeared and I couldn’t talk to him again after he closed [the restaurant] either by cell or text message but there was no answer.” Oscar adds that Noboa agreed that, “he would give [my payment] to me in time because he was just starting, but in the end he just decided to close and he said he would open in 3 days, and it never happened. I only ask that he pay me what he owes me.” [Spanish translation provided by Tony Houston]
In the end, the cases will be adjudicated by the Department of Labor, and official determinations will be made. I will follow up on this story as it develops.