A cook at Birmingham's oldest gentleman's club said she was made to sweep up rat droppings and had to work so hard she did not have time to go to the toilet.
Sarah Ross told an employment tribunal yesterday that her working life was made a misery at the exclusive 148-year-old St Paul's Club.
The 100-strong membership of the club, which is based in leafy St Paul's Square, is drawn from the city's professional sector and also includes councillors, and other senior public servants.
However, the 51-year-old cook said that when she complained about the hygiene in the kitchen and her excessive workload she was refused help as the club "could not afford it".
Mrs Ross, who was paid #6 an hour, said the club had even opposed her having three days off work to get married as the timing clashed with an evening function. She was eventually allowed the time off.
On another occasion, the experienced cook claimed she was docked half an hour's pay after she left work early to help her 16-year-old daughter who had just had an operation.
Mrs Ross, from West Bromwich, also claimed that for a few months she was not allowed to use the dishwasher, as it was reserved for crystal glasses.
The cook began working at the club in March 2005 and said she agreed a 25-hour week, working 9am to 2pm each weekday, and the "occasional" night-time function.
She told the tribunal that functions were being organised every couple of weeks and that during the events she had to cook for about 50 people in three-and-a-half hours.
"It was chaos and really difficult to cook under such pressure," she said.
Mrs Ross said she repeatedly asked for kitchen help but the club would only draft in a 72-year-old women who looked after its accounts or Chinese-speaking teenage workers.
She said: "The workers that came in were never convenient or helpful to me. It was always stressful, and I had no time to talk to people or to go to the loo. I did not even have time to breathe.
"I mentioned I should be paid more money for all the work I was doing and that there should be two cooks as there was never enough time to do it. However, I was told the club could not afford it."
Mrs Ross is claiming she was unfairly dismissed only days from working a full year at St Paul's Club after she raised health and safety concerns, particularly concerning a rat infestation.
She said: "The situation with rats was getting out of control. They could be seen running through the kitchen and dining room while I was working.
"Before I could start cooking in the morning I would have to clean up all the rodent droppings from the floor."
Mrs Ross claimed that some of the rats were living in a fridge that had been dumped outside the back door.
However, Mrs Ross claimed that her manager, Mei Liu, said that the club would not pay the #60 costs to move the fridge.
Kieran Conroy, representing the club, said: "I put it to you, Mrs Ross, that the health, safety, hygiene and filth is the full and square responsibility of the cook, whoever that may be.
"When support is provided to you in the kitchen it is your responsibility to ensure that person understands the job."
Mr Conroy also told the tribunal that on frequent occasions Mrs Ross would only cook for about five club members.
The tribunal continues.