A short-lived employee of Old Montreal’s Le Bremner says it took him six months to be paid for a single shift owed by the Chuck Hughes-owned restaurant — and then, the restaurant partially paid him with a paper bag full of hundreds of nickels.
The dishwasher, whose identity has been confirmed but is withheld here, called the situation “ridiculous.” He says he worked for one day at the restaurant (owned by celebrity chef Huges and helped by well-known chef Danny Smiles), starting on a busy Saturday in summer 2017 at 2 p.m. and wrapping up at 1 a.m. When he was called for more work a few days later, he said he declined.
“I said sorry, I’m not down, and I asked how I was going to get paid,” he said.
According to screenshots sent to Eater, numerous messages to Smiles asking about pay went unanswered from July to November 2017, before the dishwasher filed a complaint with Quebec’s Normes du Travail (NdT). A NdT representative confirmed to Eater that this was one of three complaints received against Le Bremner since early 2017 (the details of the other complaints are unknown).
During this time, the dishwasher kept in touch with a friend at the restaurant, who messaged manager Mike Bukacheski on his behalf. Bukacheski told the friend via text that the dishwasher had not showed up to a subsequent shift, indicating that this was the reason he was never paid. “Had he actually worked he would have gotten paid,” the message said.
In an email to Eater, Bukacheski echoed the same sentiment. “After a training shift, we had expected him to work with us, but he NO SHOWED on his first day of work without notice,” Bukacheski writes.
According to Quebec’s labour laws, training shifts must be paid like any other shift. The dishwasher says another employee of the restaurant (neither Bukacheski nor Smiles) called him to offer more work after the original shift, and he unambiguously declined.
The restaurant paid him around $95 in January, six months after the original shift — but the labour body declared that he had still been underpaid. A second order to pay up was issued, and when the dishwasher returned to collect that, he was met with a surprise.
“[Mike] went out the back and handed me this paper bag of what was entirely nickels and says ‘oh be careful with that, don’t drop that, it’s a bit heavy,’” the employee recalled.
The total value of the nickels added up to more than $20, or over 400 coins. A Normes du Travail representative tells Eater that while there are no laws against paying an employee in coins, the law requires cash payments to be in sealed envelopes, and not a paper bag.
Bukacheski tells Eater that the six-month delay and incorrect first payment was due to “a series of unfortunate events” and a “mixup”, and that there was no malicious intent. He went on to explain that the payment in nickels was due to “frustration”. “When we had to pay him again, I was frustrated that someone who we offered a job to [did not return] and left us hanging,” he said.
Yet the dishwasher says the situation was a telling example of how the restaurant is run.
“I counted them all, it’s a lot, I have a bowl of nickels on my table. It was so absurd... this is beyond levels of petty.”