In his experience as a restaurant worker, Jhobani Hernandez said it isn’t out of the ordinary to see perhaps a mouse or rat scurrying from the bushes of an outdoor eating area. But, he said, he’s never encountered what he saw in a food storage room at the Sky Terrace restaurant at the W Hollywood, a hotel at Hollywood and Vine.
Rats and mice scampering around stored food on shelves. Bags of flour and rice covered in what appeared to be rat feces, urine and bite marks. Rodents — sometimes dead — but often squirming and gasping for life inside glue traps.
“It was a rodent infestation,” Hernandez, 33, said. “This has just been the worst experience. Management knew about it and they just did nothing about it. That was the most irritating thing.”
Hernandez is one of five workers who have filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health — better known as Cal/OSHA — asking the agency to investigate allegations that Sky Terrace violated sanitation regulations by failing to maintain the premises to prevent the entrance or harboring of vermin. The complaint also alleges that the restaurant operator failed to institute a continuous extermination program.
Typically, vermin mitigation occurs after a county health inspection, which takes place at at least annually at all businesses that serve food — from convenience stores to full-service restaurants. This complaint focused on the health and safety concerns for the workers at the Sky Terrace.
A hospitality management company called Mosaic LLC operates Sky Terrace at the W Hollywood. On Nov.16, Unite Here Local 11, which represents the workers, filed the complaint on behalf of the five cooks, servers and receivers currently and formerly employed by Mosaic LLC.
Mosaic LLC did not respond to the specific allegations made in the complaint. Instead, representatives provided a written statement, defending its procedures.
“We take health and safety very seriously and follow standards that meet or exceed health and safety regulations,” a Mosaic representative said in a statement. The spokesperson added that the hospitality group is “ready to assist OSHA or the L.A. County Department of Public Health with any related inquiries.”
The W Hollywood works with “a leading pest control company on an ongoing basis and engage[s] them for any specific concerns reported within the building,” Nick Rimedio, the hotel’s general manager, said in a written statement.
Rimedio deferred questions about the restaurant to Mosaic but did say “health and safety is always a top priority.”
The Sky Terrace restaurant has remained open.
The main kitchen and dining areas for Sky Terrace are on the 12th floor of the hotel. Mosaic also maintains a storage area in the basement of the W Hollywood and an additional kitchen on the first floor of the same building.
On Nov. 17, a representative with Unite Here Local 11 called the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, notifying officials of the complaint and asked the agency to perform an immediate inspection. Agency officials said they investigated on Nov. 20 and found no evidence of rodents at the facility.
The inspection results don’t come as much of a surprise to Maria Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Unite Here 11.
“In the past, part of the property has been shut down and reopened only to have the vermin return,” she said. “It has been an issue that has come and gone as far as workers have expressed to us.”
Months earlier, on July 31, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shut down three of the storage rooms operated by Mosaic for 48 hours after they found dozens of rodent droppings in the facilities, according to documents provided by the public health agency. In addition, inspectors discovered that one of the three storage rooms lacked a public health permit.
At the same inspection, the inspector found no evidence of rodent activity at the rooftop restaurant itself, and the Sky Terrace received an A grade.
After an Aug. 2 re-inspection of the shuttered storage rooms, the public health agency found that all the violations had been corrected, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
But in their complaint, workers allege that the rodents ultimately returned. Workers continued to take photos of what appeared to be rodent feces and claim management continued to ignore the issue, according to the complaint.
The document describes the vermin issue in detail between May 3 to Oct. 12 of this year. The complaint also has attached photos and video footage of what appear to be live and dead mice and rats along with rodent feces and urine.
The alleged rodent activity mostly took place in the storage room in the basement of the W Hollywood. On multiple occasions, workers encountered mice and rats dashing around the stored food, according to the complaint and the workers. They also discovered bags of flour and rice covered in what appeared to be rat feces, urine and bite marks. The workers said they reported every rodent encounter to management — either verbally or via a work messaging application.
In response, the complaint states, management set out traps and asked workers to clean more thoroughly. “The rat traps and cleaning failed to resolve the rodent infestation,” the complaint alleges.
Hernandez and other workers said they agitated for management to hire an exterminator. It’s unclear whether the company did so.
In June, one of the chefs asked Hernandez, a receiver for the restaurant, to bring her a large bag of flour from the storage room to the 12th floor, where the kitchen and restaurant are located. After Hernandez delivered the flour, the chef pointed out to him that the bag was torn and had rodent feces, according to the complaint.
Hernandez said he was disgusted when he saw the droppings and yellow markings of what appeared to be urine.
He said he wastaken aback when the chef told him to only dispose of half the flour because she intended to use the other half, according to the complaint.
Hernandez took a photo of the torn bag showing apparent rodent feces. The picture is attached to the complaint.
A month later, a server at the Sky Terrace who didn’t want to be identified out of fear of repercussions, said he also started to notice rodents inside the restaurant.
On July 30, the server opened the restaurant for breakfast with a manager who uncovered the credenza on the rooftop portion of the restaurant. A glue trap had been placed on the top of the silverware in the credenza fell out with what appeared to be two mice stuck on the trap, according to the complaint. One of the mice appeared to be dead and the other alive. Management instructed the servers to throw the mice in the trash, the complaint stated.
Later that morning, the same server found what appeared to be a live mouse stuck on a trap along the wall of the restaurant. A photo of the mouse was attached to the complaint.
In the afternoon, a guest at the restaurant allegedly got their foot stuck on a glue trap that Mosaic workers had placed under a dining table, according to the same complaint.
Edward Diaz, a 30-year-old who was hired as a line cook for the restaurant, also encountered several live and dead rodents in the storage room, according to the complaint.
“Nowhere have I seen rodents in the workplace like that, and the managers knew about the vermin,” Diaz said.
After the first encounter, he said, he stopped eating food from the kitchen.
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