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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Update: Ex-Horatius Manager Alleges Pay Violations, Sexual Harassment

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:09 PM

click to enlarge J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
UPDATE Feb. 26, 6 p.m.: Horatius founder Horacio Gomes just phoned us to deliver the following statement: "Chris Vittorino was not fired for the reason that appeared in your story. It's now a legal matter. Our attorneys have advised us not to comment on this matter. When this is over, we look forward for the opportunity to tell the real truth and for you to report it." Gomes declined to name his attorney or any pending action.

Following a floor-staff walkout, the former front-of-house manager at Horatius is alleging overtime violations and sexual harassment at the Potrero Flats café. Yesterday, Chris Vittorino filed a claim with the city's Office of Labor Standards, accusing Horatius owners Horacio Gomes and Michael Greaney of failing to pay overtime wages, an amount that, in Vittorino's case, is alleged to total some $20,000.

Vittorino also accused Gomes and Greaney of routinely harassing workers, inappropriately touching male employees. "They would go around rubbing the male staff," Vittorino told SFoodie, "and saying what guys should wear to make their asses look better." So far, neither Gomes nor Greaney has responded to calls seeking comment. Read Gomes' statement above.

click to enlarge Since opening last June, Horatius has had problems with staff turnover. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Since opening last June, Horatius has had problems with staff turnover.
Vittorino, ex-front-of-house manager at Park Chow and Thirsty Bear, said that the combination café, retail store, and event space had been consistently understaffed since it opened in June 2009, requiring overtaxed employees to rack up big overtime. Vittorino ― who at any one time supervised up to seven servers, baristas, and bussers ― said it soon became clear that the owners were unwilling to compensate workers for overtime. Vittorino said he began to keep records of uncompensated hours (both for him and his staff), and on Feb. 3 finally confronted his employers, threatening a lawsuit. A week later, according to Vittorino, Gomes and Greaney offered him a severance check in exchange for dropping his threats of legal action. Vittorino says he refused and walked out. Three front-of-house workers on duty walked out with him; three more quit next day.

Founders and executives of Hispanic ad agency HeadQuarters, Gomes and Greaney were restaurant biz newbies when they launched Horatius, which has had trouble retaining staff. Opening chef Antelmo Faria lasted weeks (he's currently at Tacolicious). Vittorino claims the next chef ― Joselyn Barrera ― lasted three or four months before accepting a severance package of her own.

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