BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Russell Salvatore and owner Mark Jerge - a member of the company that runs the Salvatore hotel restaurant, are being sued in relation to alleged COVID-19 violations.
"It is absolutely unacceptable and reprehensible that a business owner or manager would flout the rules," said Lisa Coppola, managing partner of the Coppola Firm.
Coppola said they filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of a former head of maintenance for Russell's Steaks, Chops, and More and Salvatore's Grand Hotel.
The suit claims the maintenance worker was fired after he objected to working alongside owner Mark Jerge.
This, after Jerge allegedly confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19 but remained onsite.
"He was basically told it's our decision and we have made it that this owner will remain onsite," said Coppola.
Legal analyst Florina Altshiler said if these allegations are true it's a violation of whistleblower protection to retaliate against the worker by firing him.
"An employee may not be discharged or discriminated against in retaliation for making a complaint, or instituting a proceeding, or cooperating with that proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning a violation of New York's labor laws," said Altshiler. "This will include the state's Occupational Safety and Health laws."
But Russell Salvatore said this is not why the employee was fired.
"He was talking to my receptionist at the desk and I got him on camera, I said why are you still talking - 20 minutes you're talking at the desk here, you're supposed to be working. And he told me to go F myself. When he told me to go F myself I said man you're fired," said Salvatore.
He added that his business partner tested positive two months ago, and that the lawsuit is quote "crazy."
"He got tested positive about two months ago, you follow me? When we were closed. He stopped in to do paperwork, nobody was in the property or nothing," he said.
According to Erie County's Department of Health inspection reports, there were violations found at Russell's Steaks, Chops, and More in September of last year, where several employees were not wearing masks.
Records show violations were corrected during inspection.