CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former employee of Hugo's Frog Bar in downtown Chicago is suing for back pay and to get his job back after he was fired for, he claims, speaking up about unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
"Every step was just a slosh of water or directly into water," Matthew Cabrales said.
Cabrales was fired only 11 months into his dream job at the Gold Coast restaurant on Rush Street. He said it happened after what was a normal shift on June 4 that turned into a drenched nightmare.
"It smelled like sewage as soon as you hit the back of the house," he recalled.
Cabrales recorded cell phone video showing what he claims was a sewage back-up that smelled of feces flooding parts of the restaurant as customers were still being served.
"We didn't get a plumber out there until 8:30, and we had been protesting with our managers for two-and-a-half, three hours on why are we not shut down yet?" he said.
Cabrales has now filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the restaurant violated the law and retaliated against him for speak out about what he said were unsafe and unsanitary conditions. He said management fired him for using his cell phone on the job.
"Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are permitted to utilize a cell phone to record evidence that they believe relates to employee rights, employee health, and the safety of others," said attorney David Fish.
In a statement from the owners of Gibson Restaurant Group, they said the restaurant "had a drain back up in its dishwashing area one evening last month which caused some puddling under the kitchen floor mats in the back-of-house."
"Dishes to be cleaned were moved to an alternate dishwashing station until the situation was resolved. At no time was the health or safety of our customers or employees in danger," the statement continued.
The owners would not comment on why Cabrales was fired, saying they do not publicly discuss employee matters.
In a statement, the Chicago Department of Health said, "The City's ordinance regarding backups of drainage in restaurants is very clear - any kind of sewage, drainage, or wastewater backup in a kitchen is considered an imminent health hazard, and necessitates the immediate discontinuation of operations until the issue is fully rectified."