Irish workers accuse downtown pub of labor exploitation

Workers in US on temporary work and travel visa

SAN DIEGO - Workers at a downtown Irish pub told 10News the owners are underpaying them, taking tips and committing possible labor exploitation.

Many of the workers are in the U.S. from Ireland and have no other place to live or work, Team 10 learned.

Lisa O'Donnell, who is from Tipperary, Ireland, is a college student. She's thrilled to live in San Diego on a work and travel visa.

"I went to an Irish bar, straight away I got talking to a manager. They said they'd hire me and I started working the next day," said O'Donnell.

She was a waitress at the Blarney Stone Pub in downtown San Diego in the Gaslamp District.

"I was delighted to get the opportunity," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell claims she and the other workers were underpaid, penalized for breaks they didn't take, not given all of their credit card tips and given pay stubs scribbled down on a piece of paper.

"They all kind of said the same thing, all the Irish girls, they were getting underpaid for what they worked, deducted hours and unnecessary hours," said O'Donnell.

San Diego human and labor trafficking advocate Marisa Ugarte believes this is labor exploitation. She said business owners will often take advantage of people living here from other countries.

"Where are you going to go, what are you going to do? Who is going to protect you?" said Ugarte.

Ugarte called Homeland Security about these allegations.

"This is something that would happen in 'higglety pigglety' Ireland, in the backstreets, not the Gaslamp," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell collected her last paycheck and quit.

Team 10 talked to the owner of the Blarney Stone, Peter Smith, by phone. Smith said he had nothing to say.

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