Restaurant News & Reviews

Cook settles with Davis restaurant after owner allegedly fired her for speaking Spanish

Spanish speaking employee files complaint against Davis restaurant after being fired

Francisca Perez of Sacramento filed a complaint against Davis restaurant Osteria Fasullo after she claims she was dismissed for speaking Spanish with a co-worker.
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Francisca Perez of Sacramento filed a complaint against Davis restaurant Osteria Fasullo after she claims she was dismissed for speaking Spanish with a co-worker.

A woman who alleged she was fired last May from her job as a cook at a Davis restaurant for speaking Spanish has reached a settlement agreement with her former employer.

Francisca Perez, who worked at Osteria Fasulo in Davis’ Village Homes subdivision for 11 years, alleged in a complaint filed with the state earlier this year and in a previous interview with The Sacramento Bee that owner Leonardo Fasulo screamed at her, mocked her and told her she needed to learn English to keep her job, all in response to hearing her take an order from a waitress in Spanish.

The Center For Workers’ Rights, a Sacramento-based legal services nonprofit for low-wage workers, filed a complaint on Perez’s behalf with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing this January.

On Tuesday, the Center for Workers’ Rights announced in a news release that Perez and Osteria Fasulo had reached a settlement resolution “to the satisfaction of both parties.”

Perez received a financial payment of an undisclosed amount and an apology from the restaurant.

“I’m thankful for the apology from Osteria Fasulo and to feel a sense of justice for what I experienced,” Perez said in a prepared statement. “While the process was difficult, I’m proud that I demonstrated to my son that it is important to confront mistreatment.”

The settlement comes after six months of investigation and negotiation, the news release said.

Perez had alleged that the incident took place May 31, 2018, in front of her 11-year-old son. She told The Bee at the time that she responded to Fasulo, who mockingly asked her if she wanted to add burritos to the menu, that he was discriminating against Mexicans. She alleges that Fasulo responded, “You can get your ass out of my restaurant.”

When first contacted for comment by The Bee last December, Fasulo denied commanding Perez to speak English and said that Perez quit of her own accord.

Fasulo declined to comment further at the time, and Fasulo’s legal representation at the time also declined to comment.

Larry Kazanjian, the attorney now representing Fasulo, said Tuesday afternoon in an emailed statement to The Bee that Fasulo’s apology to Perez “was related to the context of the confrontation that occurred when she walked out the door, not because he harassed her because of her refusal to speak English – an allegation that he continues to deny.”

Fasulo agreed to a settlement “to put the matter behind him,” Kazanjian wrote.

“Osteria Fasulo made a difficult but wise decision to walk away from the fray lest his business suffer further as it did when the first article was published in January,” the emailed statement continued. “Osteria Fasulo is a family business that employs a multicultural staff. Mr. Fasulo believes he treats all of his employees with dignity and respect.”

The waitress involved in the incident, Janet Ruelas-Nava, said she quit the same day.

Perez came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2003, having years of experience in the latter country but speaking minimal English, as she told The Bee in a previous interview using an interpreter.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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