A former waiter filed suit Friday in federal court against an Ann Arbor restaurant, claiming he was fired after contracting COVID-19.
Nicolas Prada, a waiter and assistant manager at Tomukun Noodle Bar on the University of Michigan’s campus, became ill around June 24 with coronavirus symptoms.
He reported the illness to his manager and stayed home from work after testing positive for the virus on June 27, the lawsuit states.
Prada, who had worked at the restaurant since January 2018, claims he was refused payment during quarantine and was fired “after interrogating him regarding the origin of his sickness,” according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court.
The owner of the restaurant, Yong Hum Yon, accused him of catching COVID-19 at a party and said: “For PR reasons it would be best for you not to come back to work,” according to the lawsuit.
Prada’s attorney, Noah Hurwitz says the restaurant violated the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“My client Nicolas had worked for the restaurant for over two years and was simply trying to stay afloat during the pandemic like so many other struggling people at the time he was let go,” Hurwitz said. “He thought he did everything right by notifying the restaurant and staying home until the Health Department approved his return.”
Prada said he was fired during a 22-minute phone call with the restaurant owner in July and is suing for unstated damages and lost income.
Yon declined to comment Friday.
Hurwitz said he’s receiving calls nearly every day from workers like Prada who have lost their jobs after reported feeling ill or caring for someone who is ill.
“It’s important for businesses to know their obligations during the pandemic and for employees to know their rights,” he said. “Most of my clients are surprised to learn that they are entitled to paid sick leave, child care leave, reasonable accommodations and a host of other benefits that can help them cope during the pandemic.
“I think the biggest key to recovery from the pandemic is greater compassion for each other,” he said.