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Via 313 employees reinstated, in talks with management over COVID-19 safety

Nusaiba Mizan
Austin 360

Three employees of Via 313 who were suspended after complaining about lax enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols have been reinstated, a company representative said.

Restaurant employees are meeting with managers to discuss COVID-19 safety measures and sick pay policies, they said.

Via 313 is a pizzeria with three brick-and-mortar locations in Austin. Savory Fund, headquartered in Utah, has majority ownership over the brand.

Of Via 313's 260 employees, 46 employees signed a petition with a list of demands, a spokesperson for Via 313 said.

The petition was sent to Via 313 management on Jan 5. That evening in an email, Savory human resources reiterated the restaurant's COVID-19 protocols and CDC guidance.

More than 30 employees protested Saturday outside of a Via 313 shop on Guadalupe Street, calling for the demands they named in their petition. On Sunday, some employees handed out flyers by Via 313 locations with their demands and urged members of the public to call Savory and Via 313. The flyer also told people not to boycott the restaurant because that will hurt people working for tips.

More:Austin pizza chain Via 313 employees protest to demand sick pay, COVID-19 safety protocols

A company spokesperson said managers started meeting individually with employees Monday morning to discuss COVID-19 safety.

Via 313 Pizza employee Elyanna Calle protests outside of the restaurant's north campus location on Jan. 8, 2022. Employees said many were suspended after delivering a petition to the store managers demanding paid sick leave and stricter COVID-19 safety measures.

"As we continue to have one-on-one meetings with employees, before and after this unfortunate situation, we continue to reiterate our desire to answer any questions or concerns that may exist for our employees," Courtney Knittel, at the public relations firm Giant Noise, said.

Via 313 also wrote 43 employees who signed the petition were never suspended and have remained employed, and that eight of the employees who signed the petition "aggressively approached one of our management team members, causing this person to feel threatened and bullied."

"Of the eight, only three employees were suspended during our investigation due to creating a hostile work situation and threatening their coworker in front of other employees and guests," the spokesperson said.

All three were reinstated with back pay for the shifts they missed and instructed on company policy on how to address their concerns, the company wrote.

The employees previously said four employees had been suspended. 

Employee Tony Golemi, who had been suspended Thursday night, said he was reinstated Monday and that he had discussed Via 313 policies with members of management then.

"Obviously them reinstating us feels like a huge victory too," Golemi said.

One of the petition's demands was to notify employees when another employee tests positive of COVID-19 and may have exposed others. The company wrote that it cannot share the names of employees who test positive under medical privacy laws and that, prior to the petition, Via 313's policy was to inform employees when someone tests positive for COVID-19 through one-on-one conversations with those who may have been exposed, while maintaining confidentiality.

Elyanna Calle, one of the people who approached management about the petition on Jan. 5, said they are still seeking sick pay and a company-wide virtual meeting to address concerns.

Golemi said he thinks there's still a lot of community support for employees to receive sick pay.

"Once it is determined how all businesses are to provide and fund sick pay, Via 313 has always and will always comply to the full extent of the law," the spokesperson said after noting Via 313 monitors local and state sick pay policies.

Contact Nusaiba Mizan at nmizan@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.