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To many regulars, La Familia restaurant co-owner Al Cavazos seems like one of the nicest guys in town, often greeting customers with a handshake when they enter his beloved Tex-Mex eatery in the West 7th Street corridor. But the bald, bespectacled, diminutive Cavazos and his daughter, co-owner Lanette Cavazos, are being taken to court by three former employees who claim they’ve been threatened, humiliated, and repeatedly denied their due wages.

The suit, filed in late December in Fort Worth federal court, alleges that the Cavazoses committed numerous violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a 1938 law that applies to any business with annual sales of more than $500,000. Plaintiffs Joe Lara, Miguel Velazquez, and Juan Cano are seeking unspecified actual damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

The Cavazoses, the filing says, frequently made improper deductions from the former employees’ paychecks. The former employees also say they were “regularly, even daily, cursed at, psychologically humiliated, and, in some cases, even threatened [and] physically abused.” The filing quotes Al Cavazos as having once told one of the plaintiffs, “If you f–k with my restaurant or my livelihood, I will kill you.” The court filing also alleges that Lanette Cavazos sometimes managed the restaurant “in a severely intoxicated state and on one or more occasions brandished a firearm and waved it around the restaurant in the direction of various employees.”

The Cavazoses filed a response denying all of the allegations. Reached by phone this morning (Tuesday), Lanette Cavazos had no comment and referred questions to her and her father’s lawyer, Dallas-based Mike Coles.

Lara had worked as a waiter for La Familia for about 20 years before he was “abruptly terminated without cause” on March 17, according to the plaintiffs’ filing. Velazquez, who’d been waiting tables at the restaurant for about 15 years, was “constructively terminated,” the filing says, in late March “because of the unconscionable conduct” of the Cavazoses. Cano worked as a cook off and on for many years and consecutively for the past five until he was “abruptly terminated without cause” in mid-March, according to the filing.

The plaintiffs allege that other employees also were financially shorted or emotionally abused. Current La Familia employees, the pleading says, “have been wrongfully threatened by the defendants because of [current employees’] friendship and/or kinship with the plaintiffs.”

The former employees’ lawyers are trying to identify “all employees who have been denied wages so that they can be notified and joined to the suit should they so desire,” said Chip Searcy, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The FLSA allows for filing in state or federal court. The former employees initially filed suit in Tarrant County District Court, but the Cavazoses opted to move the case to federal court, which the law permits.



  1. I can’t imagine that little handshaking guy or his daughter being all that scary to three grown men. This might be a shakedown or a frivolous lawsuit, but you never know. Serial killers are often the least suspected among us.

  2. I hands down believe this. Al was SO rude to me and my friend about 3 years ago, and so was his daughter. I have never been back. After the way he spoke to me that day when I said one of his dishes was cold, he was so disrespectful to me. Horrible businessman. HORRIBLE.

  3. Agreed Alicia, I was chastised like a child by Al Cavazos after I received the wrong order and complained. This man was rude and exhibited bully -like behavior. I have never been back either. The food is over priced & nasty anyway. These former employees are probably saying the truth!

  4. Agreed Alicia, I was chastised like a child by Al Cavazos after I received the wrong order and complained. This man was rude and exhibited bully -like behavior. I have never been back either. The food is over priced & nasty anyway. These former employees are probably saying the truth!

  5. I always knew there was something shady going on with that little troll. I think it was the limp handshake that clued me in.

  6. According to Freud: Anyone who makes it his calling card to shake every hand and give a big smile to everybody is masking his true self. — Buck Freud, mechanic, rum runner and broomstick philosopher

  7. These accusations are completely ridiculous. If you have ever been to La Familia you would know that every person there goes above and beyond to make you feel at home. As someone that has been frequenting La Familia for many years, I find it hard to believe that the Cavazos would treat their employees any less than the best. Look at their turn over rate, I guarantee you that they have less turn over than any other restaurant in DFW. Also, if firearms and threats of this nature were being made, WHY are there not any police reports. Looks to me like someone is trying to make a quick buck and wants the Cavazos to pay up. How about you quit being lazing and taking advantage of the system to try and earn an easy $$$.

  8. as a former employee of them (very brief employee) i can say this guys are telling the truth. if you forget to pick up a plate from the table you just to get charged a $1 per plate even if you were too busy on a Friday night.. that’s why the waiters are so good at picking plates up. I did not last long if you talk to your coworkers when you are not busy you get charge a dollar you were not allow to buy food from the restaurant to-go …if you buy food to eat there you are not getting soup like everybody else even tough you are paying full price…these are only little things i got to see in my short time working for them next time ask your waiter if he gets to pay full price if he misplace your order or if you get it too cold house never loose is their policy.

  9. Everything these guys are saying are true. I also worked for them for a few weeks. Every mistake we made we were charged a 1, it was worse than jail! You could not talk to anyone, had to always be on top of everything! After I quit I had to attend counseling for 3 weeks! Was not able to sleep for a while! I’m glad someone is finally putting these people in their place! Watutuberriu!

  10. Everything is true. The daughter is completely crazy! She is drunk all the time. She is verbally abusive. She has inappropriate relationships with her male employees.

  11. Very true she told me she would never leave me and my husband alone and she fired him because he was with me and our child on his day off instead of her Christmas shopping….and calls me drunk saying about stuff about my husband

  12. This is still going on and it bothers me that I cant say nethin then I lose my job, i see people come and go in this place because al is always be yelling at the new people the other day he curse at a guy who was a soldier and say that the war he went to wasnt shit but the guy is messed up in the head because of it. He do it to me not very much like before but still get angry and say he will fire for makin mistake

  13. Well with all my respects obviously you haven’t been employed by them and the great service you get in there is achieved by fear I haven’t experienced anything so traumatic before I worked there

  14. April 2015
    Well… As customers of Al’s for OVER 22 YEARS NOW, I can say I don’t believe this NOR have we ever witnessed anything! I feel the employees DO NOT HAVE TO WORK THERE if they do not like the rules. Hmmm… Seems like if there are strick rules, there must be or been, a problem! If your job is to clean the dirty dishes off a table for the next people… Why on earth would you leave a dirty dish on the table? I would think if you got a fine of a dollar, you would NOT do it again. Therefore, you’re NOT getting fired but getting a slap on the hand… So, you got to keep your job and you are suing him for it… That is just terribly wrong!

    Mr. Cavazos is the one of the sweetest men I know! Which makes me think a lot of these comments are from the people that sued, their spouses or upset family that was let go!

    ANYONE who has run a business… IT IS YOUR HEART AND SOUL PLUS YOUR LIFE THAT GO INTO IT…Especially a place you have to be open all the time. If some upset employee tells you they will “Take you down” or whatever, bc they are mad… I can easily see standing up for my business and family! There are some people who want things given to them… We have personally watched this family work with no vacations for 22 years which is an ultimate sacrifice to try to provide for your family, so it upsets me greatly to read these comments!

    Please go try the food bc WE LOVE IT AND WOULD NEVER HAVE GONE THERE THIS LONG IF WE DIDN’T! Oh, and that comment about Al being a little troll… That “Little Man” was the top winner when he was in the Army as the No.1 BOXER and went all the way around the world from like Japan to, winning in like Germany or somewhere… It is a very impressive story! Don’t let size fool you! Then to the person with the comment about his week handshake… I’ve never noticed but he did have his arm completely sliced open in a car wreck and tendons had to be taken from two fingers and put into his arm in order for him to use the wrist for motion. Maybe he lost some of the grip with the injury… But you can clearly see the injury bc there isn’t meat around it still. SO SEE, You shouldn’t cast stones~ You guys are being “Oddly” Rude… Making me think you are not true customers! SO AS A TRUE CUSTOMER… I’M SAYING THE FOOD IS WONDERFUL AND TO TRY IT! Mine has never been cold if it’s not suppose to be but I can’t see him EVER getting upset with the customer bc they received cold food… That is HIS EMPLOYEES FAULT- NOT THE CUSTOMER’S! SO that proves to me… These are probably to sabotage the restaurant~!