Giorgio’s Restaurant Stiffs Worker, Worker Demands Unpaid Wages

August 3, 2010
by Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA)

On June 29, former Giorgio’s Restaurant sous-chef Nick Dellinger contacted the PRWA after walking-out of work when his employer refused to pay him for all his hours worked and stopped payment on his last paycheck. The next day, the PRWA accompanied Nick as he presented his boss a BOLI Wage Claim, a flier to be posted in the kitchen explaining the law on final paychecks, and a detailed demand letter stating how Giorgio’s was violating ORS 652.120(1) by not maintaining a regular and consistent pay period.

PRWA: So where were you working? What was your position?
Nick Dellinger: I was working at Giorgio’s Restaurant in the Pearl District. I was the sous-chef.

PRWA: How long did you work there?
ND: I had worked there for a year at that point. Overall I had worked for the company over two years in the past three.

PRWA: How long have you been in food service?
ND: I have been in the food service industry for the past eleven years. I started when I was just a kid in my family’s restaurant. My family had several restaurants. The most well known was Porky’s Diner. A staple in the Des Moines area.

PRWA: Did you enjoy working at Giorgio’s?
ND: At one time I did enjoy working at Giorgio’s. The food was good and I was asked to take on a major role. That felt really good. Then they started really taking advantage of me.

PRWA: When did they start taking advantage of you?
ND: Giorgio, the executive chef, started taking advantage of me as soon as he realized I could do the job. That’s it. As soon as he realized I could carry the weight. I was on shift pay and I would end up working four or five twelve-hour days a week. The executive chef would come in and leave, knowing I would just take care of it. I was often working solo during very busy times. It became very mentally and physically draining. To top it off there was very little appreciation, just an expectation to continue to let it happen.

PRWA: Can you explain “shift pay”? Is that a flat rate per shift instead of an hourly wage?
ND: Shift pay is where you are paid a certain amount per shift. If you work a whole shift or half shift you are paid the same. If you work an extra day of the week the you are not paid more, because it doesn’t fall into your normal shifts. If you are sick one day of the week then you don’t get paid because it is taking away from your normal shifts. It is a salary designed for the owner. I signed on to work there knowing that was the case but unable to find food like that anywhere else. It was a phenomenal restaurant but the owner has sucked the quality out of it.

PRWA: Can you explain what happened, in terms of the dispute you had?
ND: The dispute I had was simple. I put in my two weeks notice. I had another offer, one I could not refuse. The chef said I was sabotaging him and then talked down to me for two weeks. When I got my last check, I walked out the door. By the time I went to the bank to deposit it, It had been canceled. My employer said that I took money that I hadn’t earned. I asked why, then, would they pay me the sum that was on my check if I hadn’t earned it. Ultimately he asked me to work my last two days for free. So I walked out.

PRWA: Did you have other problems in your workplace?
ND: I am certainly not the first person that has been affected by this employer. I know several very talented people who have quit, gotten fired or have been forced to move on from this place. It is a very sad and pathetic operation, with very little respect given to either employee or customer. It is all about taking advantage of people.

PRWA: How did you get in touch with the PRWA?
ND: I have a good friend whom is involved with the PRWA. The day I left, I ran into him walking in northwest Portland. I told him what had happened and he put me in touch with Emmett. Emmett and I talked on the phone a few hours that night. I went about filling out the proper paperwork, in case I might have had to file a wage claim.

PRWA: How did y’all go about resolving this? Can you tell the story of going in and confronting your former employer?
ND: The next day Emmett met me at the park and he walked me through the interaction with my previous employer. We then went together to the restaurant and asked for my check. He stood right there with me, informing me of my rights as my ex-employer tried to swindle me out of money. He was very helpful and supportive, and we walked away with a check that I felt satisfied the work I had completed there.

PRWA: What are you up to now?
ND: I live in Las Vegas. I am employed by the MGM Grand, at one of the finest restaurants in the state. I am happy to be a part of a local union and working for people who truly respect me and support what I do for them. It is a refreshing change. I do love Portland. I miss it and I cannot wait to come home. Professionally this is the best decision for me now.

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