SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – CoreLife Eatery is responding to a viral video showing one of its managers firing and yelling at a Spanish-speaking employee and her family.
This incident in question occurred Thursday at the franchise restaurant’s City Creek location. Concepción Aguirre Fuentes told her children when they came to eat and visit her at work that she hadn’t received a raise promised to her months ago.
Since Fuentes spoke little English, her daughter Esmeralda said she decided to inquire with manager Trina Meredith on behalf of her mother.
“I just asked her what happened with the raise and if my mom needed to learn more on the job or what she needed to do so I could let my mom know,” said Esmeralda Fuentes. “She didn’t let me finish asking the question before she yelled at me, saying that I can’t tell her what to pay her employees.”
Her brother, Omar said he then inquired with a different employee about corporate’s number, which upset Meredith.
“She instantly came out to the front where all the guests are and says, ‘Get out of my store right now. I’m going to call security. I don’t want drama,'” said Omar Fuentes. “All I wanted was the corporate number.”
Esmeralda said the manager threatened to terminate her mother’s employment if they didn’t leave. That’s when Omar said he took his phone out and started recording the confrontation. Their mother, Concepción said she was in shock when she found out she had been fired.
“It wasn’t a reason to fire me when they know I’ve been doing a good job,” Concepción Fuentes told ABC4 in Spanish. “I was surprised and scared because that wasn’t a reason for her to react in an angry way. I was just asking for a raise.”
She said this wasn’t her first negative encounter with Meredith.
“I’ve asked her for time off two months in advanced and she denied it to me right away,” she said. “I can’t take breaks because I’ll get in trouble. But if they need me to stay late, I’ll still do it. She gives me fear so when I go ask for things like medical leave or vacation, I can’t talk to her.”
Her son, Ivan posted the videos on social media and within 24 hours, the post was shared nearly 8,000 times.
In CoreLife Eatery’s initial statement to ABC4 News, they wrote:
“We have spoken with several witnesses who have described aggressive behavior that was displayed by the patrons in question towards the manager, prior to this video that has been circulated. There were several threats made and aggressive actions displayed which caused the manager to take action to protect herself and other guests in our restaurant.
The video currently being circulated online does not show the employee’s grown children coming to our premises earlier in the day, upon which they were asked to leave by mall security because of threatening remarks they were making towards the manager. This video was filmed once they had come back to the restaurant after they had been originally escorted off the premises and again made a threat to our manager that they were going to physically assault her.
The situation escalated following this video which caused the mall security to return and eventually, the Salt Lake City Police. There was also a very concerned customer who noticed what was happening and decided to investigate the situation. This customer was also threatened with physical assault by the patrons. These situations all occurred after the manager initially told this employee’s children that she would discuss a requested raise with the employee at a more appropriate time after consulting with her supervisor.
We take the concerns and well-being of our guests and employees very seriously and for that reason, we have launched a full investigation, in cooperation with the local authorities to get to the bottom of what occurred. In the meantime, the manager has been placed on administrative leave until this situation is resolved. We would like our community and customers to rest assured that we take this matter very seriously and apologize for any concerns they may have.”
When the Fuentes family read the company’s statement, they disputed the claims.
“None of that is true. My sister went to go talk to her nicely. She’s little, that lady’s tall. She just went to go ask what was going on. The manager flipped out. My sister comes back crying. I go back, ask for the corporate number, the manager refuses to do any of that and just starts a whole scene,” said Omar Fuentes.
Nearly eight hours after the company sent their initial statement, Rick Timmons, president of CoreLife Eatery Mountain West issued an updated statement in an on-camera interview.
“The actions of our manager were completely unacceptable and do not represent our commitment to a dignified environment for all of our employees and patrons. We apologize to our employee, her family, patrons in the restaurant at the time of the incident and to all others who were offended by the actions of our manager,” Timmons read.
He went on to read, “We will not tolerate this type of behavior and have taken swift action. We initially placed the manager on administrative leave while we investigated in more detail and have since terminated her. More importantly, we are in the process of reaching out to our employee to apologize and begin steps to make the situation right.”
The Fuentes family said they are unsure if their mother will return to work for CoreLife Eatery. But they said all they want out of this situation is for this to never happen to another employee.
A GoFundMe has raised $1,800 to help Fuentes transition to a new job. Her children said they will be holding an event with musical performances to give back to the community for their support. The event will be held on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.