VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A $10-million class action lawsuit has been launched against Denny’s restaurants in British Columbia, charging the family friendly diner chain wronged foreign workers by slashing hours, refusing to pay overtime and failing to pay for the workers’ round-trip airfare.

The suit, filed on Jan. 7, alleges Denny’s restaurants in B.C. breached the contracts of more than 50 Filipino workers brought to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, from December 2006 to the present.

The program allows employers to hire foreigners to fill short-term labor shortages.

Lawyers Charles Gordon and Christopher Foy filed the lawsuit against Denny’s parent companies, Northland Properties Corp. and Dencan Restaurants Inc.

The lawyers say the suit is needed as foreign workers, eager to establish themselves in Canada and fearful of being sent home, are reticent to speak up when their rights are violated.

“They’re put in a highly vulnerable position vis-a-vis their employers,” Gordon said.

“Many hope to become permanent residents but are afraid of making any waves that may jeopardize that.”

The few that do typically face repercussions, Gordon said.

According to the lawsuit, a district manager threatened to send Maria Genalyn Reyes home to the Philippines if she chose to work at a competing restaurant chain once her contract ended.

Alfredo Sales was allegedly fired after demanding outstanding overtime pay and return airfare between the Philippines and Vancouver.

The employment contract signed by the workers states that it is the employer’s obligation to pay for the transportation costs between the two countries.

Another worker hasn’t been reimbursed for the cost of her airfare, did not consistently receive her promised hours of work and is owed overtime pay, the suit alleges.

A spokesman from Denny’s Canada refused an interview, but the company released a statement saying it will investigate the allegations and all alleged incidents described.

“We have always adhered to the employment standards guidelines and continue to be strong supporters of workplace ethics,” marketing director Brent Armstrong said.

According to the WelcomeB. C. website, B.C. had 44,000 temporary foreign workers in 2009.

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