FORT MEYERS — A Lee County woman has filed suit against former employer Rodes Farms Inc., alleging that the Florida-based seafood restaurant wrongfully terminated her after she complained about unpaid payment for overtime work.
Anna Nina Prizzi filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on Feb. 9. She also alleged retaliation stemming from her taking a stance and violations of the workers’ compensation act.
In her complaint, Prizzi argues that she suffered damages after being terminated as the restaurant’s executive chef upon voicing her concerns about the mistreatment of other workers who were not being paid a fair and equitable wage by the company, particularly for the extra hours they worked.
In addition to seeking payment for all unpaid back wages, Prizzi is requesting a trial by jury. She is also demanding that she be reinstated to her staff management position, as well as given a promotion, injunctive relief, front wages, all legal fees and any other relief the court finds to be justified.
Prizzi is represented by veteran labor and employment attorney R. Martin Saenz of Saenz & Anderson, PLLC in nearby Aventura. He has also worked in the area of real estate litigation and business and commercial law.
The state minimum wage in Florida has long been higher than the federal average and the state is widely regarded as one of the best places for worker protections among all states in the country. If Prizzi’s claims against Rodes Farms are found to be liable, the company could also be found to be in violation of the federally mandated Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state theft laws protecting workers from unpaid overtime.
Economic Policy Institute President Ross Eisenbrey previously told the Florida Record that the nearly 80-year-old FLSA stands as “the most basic wage and hourly law ever passed."
As much as assuring that workers are fairly compensated for all the hours they work, he said that the law was also specifically designed to help guard against worker burnout.
“The idea behind it was to spread work so people wouldn’t have to work such long hours,” he said. “Back then, the typical work week was about 60 hours. The law doesn’t prohibit more than a 40-hour work week, but it requires that the worker be compensated at a rate of time one-half their regular wage.”
According to Eisenbrey, by and large every hourly worker is shielded by the law and even a growing number of salaried workers are now covered, as the law has evolved even more in recent times. He added that over the past eight decades, the law has undergone a series of tweaks and changes, most of them aimed at expanding the law’s jurisdiction to make certain that even more workers like those in the public workplace are now protected by it.
Repeated calls to Rodes Farms for comment were not returned by publication time and as of yet the company has made no public statement on the matter.