NCLEJ Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Apple-Metro Over Retaliatory Firing

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Thursday, April 27, 2023 – 12:00 PM ET

Patrick Fowler |
Anjana Malhotra | 

New York, NY – The National Center for Law and Economic Justice has filed an amended legal complaint against Apple-Metro, the New York Metropolitan Area franchisee for Applebee’s restaurants, to include a retaliatory filing charge over the unjust termination of Charging Party Justin Onwenu. 

The initial complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and alleges that Apple Metro has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as state and local laws, that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices. The complaint alleges that Apple-Metro discriminates against Justin and similarly situated Black and dark-skinned servers by paying lower wages at the Applebee’s locations whose servers are predominantly Black or dark-skinned, and by retaliating against him for opposing these discriminatory practices. Apple-Metro pays the full minimum wage of $15 an hour plus tips to predominantly non-Black and white Applebee’s workers in Midtown, while paying only the subminimum wage of $10 an hour to predominantly Black and Brown South Bronx Applebee’s workers. Following the filing of the EEOC charge and opposing the Apple-Metro’s discriminatory pay practices, Apple-Metro subsequently fired Justin Onwenu from his position at the South Bronx Applebee’s.


On Thursday, April 27th, NCLEJ and One Fair Wage will join allies to uplift the legal charge against Apple-Metro and call attention to the issues of racial discrimination and pay disparities in New York State. 

WHEN: Thursday, April 27, 2023 at 12:00 PM
WHERE: Applebee’s Bronx Terminal, 601 Exterior St., Bronx
LOCAL CONTACT: Estefania Galvis, Co-Organizing Director, (813) 898-9136

“Justin was fired in retaliation by his employers after we filed his racial discrimination complaint. This is a clear violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and state and local laws, and we are determined to hold Apple-Metro accountable for violating the law,” said NCLEJ Senior Attorney Anjana Malhotra

“Apple-Metro’s retaliatory firing of Justin only adds insult to industry over their racially discriminatory pay practices,” said Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage. “For far too long, Black and Brown workers have been denied a livable wage. It’s time to secure a fair and equitable wage for all workers.”

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice is a legal nonprofit organization that advances racial and economic justice for low-income families, individuals, and communities across the country through ground-breaking impact litigation, policy advocacy, and support for grassroots organizing. Founded in 1965, NCLEJ fights to protect access to critical benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and childcare, protect low-wage workers’ rights and safety, advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, and fights unlawful debt collection.  

One Fair Wage is a national coalition, campaign, and organization seeking to end all subminimum wages in the United States and increase the sustainability of wages and working conditions in the service sector. One Fair Wage policy would require all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top, that would lift millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers nationally out of poverty.