A former longtime cook at El Tepeyac Cafe is suing the restaurant’s owner for allegedly firing him after he was forced to train a younger woman who was to replace him. 

Anarbol López, 62, claims he was wrongfully terminated due  to his age in a lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court against the popular Boyle Heights restaurant and its owner, Elena Rojas. In the lawsuit, López alleges he was told he was fired because he drank on the job, even though other employees did the same thing and the owners gave them some of the alcohol. 

City News Service reported the lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, discrimination, retalitation and harassment.

López was hired by the popular Boyle Heights restaurant in 1986 and, according to the lawsuit, he was well liked and respected for his strong work ethic. He worked every day except Tuesday, often as long as 14 hours a day. The suit claims López was “indirectly” taunted by management the few times he was able to take a break, so in order to keep his job he stopped taking them.

Famous five-pound burrito at El Tepeyac. Photo by Jonathan Olivares

In February, management told Lopez he was to train a younger, female coworker for the restaurant’s second location in La Mirada. López passed on what he learned from being at the restaurant for nearly three decades, in order to help out his new co-worker, but later learned that she had actually been hired to replace him.

López asked for a raise from his $17 hourly wage due to his experience and the amount of customers he brought to the restaurant. The suit alleges that the owner’s son laughed at his request and told him was too old and should be grateful he even had the job. 

“During his employment, he did every task he was instructed to do without ever complaining,” according to his suit.

López says the owner added more work to his already hectic workload as a way to get rid of him, and that he noticed that nothing he did was ever acceptable to management. 





According to the suit, López was fired May 25 after returning from a two week vacation and was told it was because he drank alcohol on the job. López says he was shocked because of all the years he spent working at El Tepeyac. 

Manuel Rojas with daughter Elena Rojas outside El Tepeyac Cafe. Photo by Erik Sarni

The suit alleges it was normal for the employees to drink alcohol adding that the owners themselves brought the alcohol for the employees to drink since they knew they had heavy workloads.

Attempts to reach the restaurant’s owner were unsuccessful. Reached by phone, López’s lawyer Walter P. Saavedra declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Founded in 1952 by Salvador and Rebeca Rojas, El Tepeyac was operated for decades by their son Manuel Rojas – who made the restaurant famous for its large portions and five-pound wet burritos. When Manuel Rojas died in 2013, the landmark business was passed on to his daughter Elena Rojas.


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