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Mohney, an actor with another full-time waiting job, says the lawsuit wouldn't have been possible without ROC, whose role he describes as that of an agent or middleman. "ROC really helped put it together," he says. "They did the groundwork for this."
Justin M. Swartz, a lawyer with Outten & Golden, says the 150 workers that his firm represents would be willing to settle out of court. "They [the Fireman Group] just have to pay them back," he says. "They forced the workers to sue them to get the money they are owed. . . . I've been doing this eight years, and I've never seen anything like it. They rely on their workers, so it's just baffling to me the way they treat them."
But there have been counter-protests by staffers who haven't signed onto the lawsuit. And their signs read: "The only people stealing our tips are ROC."
Veteran employee Ricardo Soto defends the Fireman restaurants and isn't part of the lawsuit, but he says that half of the employees at his restaurant are, and he tries not to talk about it with them. "You have to work with these peopleyou eat with them, you change with them," he says. "You spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your loved ones."
When there are protests while Soto is working, he says, he will make a point of holding open the restaurant door to entice diners in. "In this business, people always cry," he says. "At the end of the day, Saru will get places, but she's no Erin Brockovich."