MADISON (WKOW) -- Like many restaurants, Madison-based Milio's Sandwiches has felt the huge impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But now it says it can't pay employees for work they've already done.
"Essentially, it feels like we were fired two weeks ago, but nobody knew about it," said Samantha Griffin, who manages a Sun Prairie Milio's.
She's one of hundreds of employees without work since Milio's closed its corporate-owned locations Tuesday.
On Thursday, employees were told the paycheck they thought was coming Friday, wasn't.
"We're talking about a full two weeks of unpaid wages," Griffin said. "It was just devastating, heartbreaking."
Milio's President and CEO "Big Mike" Liautaud says he was blindsided as well.
"When I closed my doors 3 or 4 days ago, I never in a million years thought of being in default with the bank," Liautaud said. "I called the bank up, and they said, 'Mike, you are out of business. Your doors are closed. Per federal regulations, I have to put you in default. That's the way it is. If you are in default, we freeze your lines of credit.'"
Liautaud says he's not sure right now how long it will be before the money is un-frozen.
"I'm not a Fortune 500 company with big piles of cash in the bank like many might think," he said. "I do fully understand the predicament they are all in. I am in that predicament right with them. I have no cash. It's not coming."
Liautaud says he realizes he's in a tough legal spot, and his lawyers are working quickly to get the company out of it -- and secure whatever disaster loans are available.
"I fielded 40 calls today, minimum, from my employees," Liautaud said. "I talked with each one of them individually, and I returned the calls as fast as I can. They are concerned, and they have a right to be concerned. And I'm concerned. So, I'm doing everything that I can on a daily basis to figure this stuff out, to get myself out of the hole and get these people back to work as soon as possible."
Griffin says she's enjoyed working at Milio's for the last three years, but now she has questions.
"It really hurts for them to say that we're in the same boat," she said. "My hourly people that make on the lower-end, minimum wage, to the higher end maybe $9 per hour. I can't say that it's affecting them the same."
Griffin says employees aren't asking for anything special, just pay for the work they've already done.
"I find it highly suspicious that up until just one day or 10 hours before pay day, there was no awareness that you didn't have the funds to pay the people that worked the last two weeks," Griffin said.
Meanwhile, she's already signed up for unemployment, because she, like the others, has bills to pay.
"I know a lot of people were just counting down the hours and minutes to buy groceries or pay their rent or other essentials," Griffin said. "This is very detrimental."
Liautaud says employees with questions should reach out to him via phone or email directly.
There are a handful of independently-operated Milio's franchises which are not affected by this.