In the latest skirmish of a running battle, lawyers representing temporary foreign workers at the Denny's Restaurant group say the company has been using threats and intimidation in an attempt to get employees to back out of a $10-million lawsuit against the chain.
Employees have been warned that the company will not back their bids for permanent residency if workers take part in the lawsuit, the lawyers and court documents allege.
In a June 13 affidavit, Denny's waitress Charo Salazar says a manager told her Denny's would not support her application for permanent residency status if she took part in the class action, but "if I was going to opt-out [of the lawsuit] Denny's will guarantee, 100 per cent, support for me with all the documents I need for residency in Canada," Ms. Salazar says in the affidavit.
In urging Ms. Salazar and other employees to opt out, Denny's is trying to reduce the number of employees who could be eligible for compensation and flouting an April court order directing the company not to interfere in the process, lawyer Christopher Foy said on Thursday.
"The fact of the matter is, we have a previous court order that restrains Denny's from any improper communication with the class members," said Mr. Foy, one of the lawyers representing workers in a class-action suit that was certified earlier this year.
Mr. Foy said lawyers for the class-action plaintiffs would ask the court to consider any opt-out letters null and void. That application is expected to be heard on July 4.
Denny's had not yet received all of the court filings on Thursday afternoon, said Rob Toor, a lawyer for Northland Properties, which operates Denny's and other businesses. But the company believes the recent allegations to be untrue and will contest them in court, Mr. Toor said.
The claims are the latest development in a dispute that dates back to 2008, when Herminia Vergara Dominguez came to work at a Denny's restaurant as a temporary foreign worker.
Ms. Dominguez claimed Denny's didn't provide as much work as she had been promised, failed to pay her overtime for hours worked and also failed to pay her for job-related expenses, such as travel and agency fees.
Ms. Dominguez, who filed her claim last year, is the "representative plaintiff" for about 70 Denny's employees who have made similar claims.
In her affidavit, Ms. Salazar alleged that a Denny's manager tried to convince her to opt out of the class action and told her that other employees had already signed forms to do so.
The manager also talked about the potential financial implications of the class-action suit, according to her affidavit.
"Mr. [Russell] Jen [the manager] also said that the foreign workers will not get the $10-million," the affidavit states. "Mr. Jen said that the foreign workers cannot get the $10-million because there is a cut from the lawyer. Mr. Jen said that the foreign workers will not get $20,000 each, that Denny's has calculated the amount and that the foreign workers will get $5,000.00 each and that we can earn that $5,000.00.
"I told Mr. Jen it was not only the money, I explained to him that I paid $6,000.00 because I was promised I can apply for my permanent resident and I am almost four years here and I haven't got residency."
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a federal program that allows foreign workers to work in areas subject to labour shortages.