Activists rally at Andiamo as 8 sue over pay; restaurant denies claims

 BY NIRAJ WARIKOO

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

 As activists and union leaders held a rally outside the Andiamo Dearborn restaurant on Tuesday, eight current and former workers filed a federal lawsuit alleging they were underpaid or denied overtime for working extra hours.

 Andiamo said in a statement provided by its attorney there is no truth to the allegations outlined in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

 “Rather than believe unproven words on paper, come to Andiamo of Dearborn and you will see the reality,” said the statement from attorney Marla Linderman.

 The lawsuit alleges the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Michigan Minimum Wage Law. It was filed by attorneys with the Detroit-based Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice and Working Hands Legal Clinic in Chicago. “We just want what is fair and legally owed under the law,” Naome Debebe, 30, of Detroit, told the Free Press. In the lawsuit, Debebe says she was wrongly fired in December 2009 after complaining about being paid less than the minimum wage.

 But Andiamo said in a statement that “Debebe was terminated due to several customer complaints in a short duration of time.”

 Two of the eight workers who are minorities also filed discrimination complaints Tuesday with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 The lawsuit comes after several protests held over the past two months by activists and some workers outside Andiamo Dearborn on Michigan Avenue. Tuesday’s rally was held by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, a nonprofit based in Detroit.

 In the statement, Andiamo said that it has been asking the Restaurant Opportunities Center for proof of its allegations, but “the organization has refused to provide any details.”

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