Employees say SWFL restaurant bouncing paychecks

Posted at 9:39 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 21:39:49-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. - One Fort Myers man says he’s one of many employees who are having a pay problem with upscale restaurant Prime de Leon in Downtown Fort Myers.

The employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he turned to FOX 4 after months of trying to recover more than $2,000 but isn’t getting anywhere.

He says the biggest problem is checks he’s received from the owner have bounced more than once, leaving him to pay more than $100 worth of bank fees for checks being returned.

“If you hire someone, you should pay them," he said. "He’s given us a long list of excuses. Our bank account was frozen, we couldn’t do this, we couldn’t do that. Every time there was a different excuse."

The employee tells FOX 4 he just wants the owner to be upfront about what’s going on.

“I don’t have kids so I’m okay, I’ll take the hit,” the anonymous employee said. "Other people have kids, other people have families to feed and if you cannot pay your employees, just be upfront and honest and give them a chance to find another place they can work and accept the responsibility that you do.”

Another former employee, who also wished to remain anonymous, says this is a problem that's been going on for about a year. He tells FOX 4 it’s a big reason why several employees including him have quit.

Four in Your Corner's Stephanie Tinoco went to Prime de Leon to talk to the owner to find out why workers aren’t being paid. He didn’t want to talk to me on camera but did say he has been struggling over the past few months to pay employees.

He said the restaurant has been facing tough times  especially with it being "off season" and then the Zombicon shooting in October. He adds that while business has been slower, all employees have been paid in full for anything they were missing and has done his best to make sure everyone has been also been reimbursed for any bank fees they've encountered.

While at the restaurant, Stephanie asked a couple employees if that’s true.

“I haven’t had any issues myself so I can’t speak on that behalf,” Justin Yandel said. “[As for] others I haven’t heard anything through the grapevine, through kitchen talk, or anything like that.”

Yandel adds that the owner "bends over backwards" for his employees as he puts them before his own family to make sure everyone gets paid.

The owner of Prime de Leon says he hopes the worker will come out of the shadows so he can try to resolve the issue face to face - something the employee says he’s willing to try one more time.

“It’s not fair to me or to employees families,” the employee said. “It’s time something gets done.”