Chinatown Restaurant pays $525K in back wages, fines for wage theft

March 1, 2013

In a 2010 California wage and hour survey conducted by the Chinese Progressive Association, out of 400 workers in San Francisco's Chinatown restaurants interviewed over a two year period--more than half of the workers claimed that they had been illegally subjected to wage theft. As Vincent Howard reported in a previous Riverside, California wage and hour blog, the report claimed that over fifty percent of these workers were compensated with less than minimum wage, with ninety five percent of these workers failing to receive a living wage.

In related wage theft news, San Francisco officials have reportedly secured $525,000 in back wages along with penalties from the owners of the Dick Lee Pastry, the Chinatown restaurant that was accused of forcing its employees to work over eleven hour days, six days a week, for less than minimum wage.

According to the San Francisco Gate, this settlement marks the single largest payment the city has ever received in its ongoing fight against wage theft--a massive problem that affects workers all over the country, who are often paid below minimum wage, with no employee benefits like overtime compensation, and who are often immigrants with limited English speaking skills. Julie Su, California's Labor Commissioner, has stated that California has been has lost around $7 billion in tax revenue and economic participation by low-wage workers every year to wage theft.

The wage and hour lawsuit was filed by the City Attorney's office in July 2011, after the restaurant owners allegedly tried to thwart the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement's attempts to enforce wage and hour laws. The lawsuit accused Dick Lee Pastry of forcing employees to work between eleven to fourteen hour days, for six days a week, with compensation of only $1,100 per month--a minimum wage of less than $4 an hour. The minimum wage in San Francisco was $9.92 per hour when the lawsuit was filed, and has now been raised to $10.55 per hour.

One employee claimed that when she was hired for the job in 2005, she unaware of her rights to minimum wage or overtime compensation, as she had recently immigrated from China. She worked from nine in the morning until nine in the evening, but was only paid for three hours on her paycheck. She reportedly left the job in 2010 after her employers refused to allow her to take more than two weeks off in order to deal with a childcare issue. Another employee who worked as a busser, handed out restaurant promotional material, and cleaned the owner's house, was allegedly fired the day that the San Francisco labor inspectors arrived to investigate to the restaurant.

Under the settlement agreement that Vincent Howard has been following, the restaurant owners agreed to compensate employees with $525,000 in back wages and penalties by February 8, or face a $1.5 million judgment and possible seizure of the properties.

If you or someone you know has been subjected to wage theft in the Orange County, California workplace, contact Vincent Howard today, for a free consultation about your wage and hour rights.

SF restaurant pays back wages, fines, San Francisco Gate, February 13, 2013

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

California Department of Industrial Relations, (DIR)

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