A former employee at Ann Arbor’s Tomukun Noodle Bar has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, claiming he was wrongly terminated in June after contracting COVID-19.
Nicolas Prada says that he began showing possible symptoms of the disease caused by novel coronavirus around June 24 and notified the restaurant that he would not be able to come to work, according to the complaint filed on Friday, August 28. On June 27, Prada received a positive test for COVID-19. Prada self-quarantined for two weeks as advised by the Washtenaw County Health Department. Tomukun stated in a July 1 Facebook post that it temporarily closed for professional sanitizing following a positive case.
Prada requested to return to work on July 10 after his self-quarantine. He eventually got a call from owner Yong Hum Yon on July 11. During that call, Prada alleges that Yon blamed him for contracting COVID-19 by acting irresponsibly, claiming that there was “evidence on social media” Prada had been partying. “Mr. Yon told Plaintiff, ‘for PR reasons it would be best for you not to come back to work,’” the complaint reads.
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Dear Valued Customers, It has come to our attention that an employee at Tomukun Noodle Bar has received a positive test result for COVID-19. The employee and our entire staff were wearing proper PPE while working. Out of an abundance of caution, we will close all services at Noodle Bar to ensure that all staff are allowed to get tests and quarantine safely, if necessary. To further ensure the safety of our staff and customers, we will conduct a professional cleaning of our restaurant and continue to adhere to safety protocols with the guidance of the Washtenaw Health Department and the CDC. If you have questions and have dined indoors at Noodle Bar on June 23rd or 24th, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information. We thank you for your support and understanding during this extremely difficult time. We hope you and yours are safe, and we urge you to continue wearing your mask whenever possible.
The lawsuit claims that in addition to facing retaliation by his employer for self-quarantining, the restaurant also illegally denied Prada 80 hours of paid sick leave as is guaranteed through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. (There is an exemption to this rule that small businesses can apply for if they have fewer than 50 employees.) Prada is also claiming that the restaurant operates an illegal tip pool, where “senior servers receive a greater ‘tip share’ than less experienced servers,” and the restaurant takes a “‘house cut’ of five [per]cent (5%) of server tips per shift.”
Eater has reached out to Tomukun Noodle Bar for comment on the lawsuit.
Prada is seeking unspecified damages, sick leave compensation, and attorney fees.
Restaurant workers have been deemed essential since the early days of the pandemic as establishments were permitted to continue selling carryout and delivery during the partial dine-in shutdown. As restaurants began reopening for carryout and, eventually, dine-in service in June, many workers began to speak out about the risks they were taking on by interacting with the public. Many restaurant workers are not provided with health insurance, which can illnesses and unexpected time off from work extremely difficult. On August 20, the state reported that restaurants and bars accounted for 14.3 percent of all new recorded outbreaks in the state.
• Suit: Restaurant Fired Waiter for Contracting COVID-19 [Detroit News]
• Tracking the Impact of the Pandemic on Ann Arbor’s Food Industry [ED]
• All Tomukun Noodle Bar Coverage [ED]
• All Lawsuits Coverage [ED]