NYC Restaurant Owner To Pay $2 Million in Back Wages

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NEW YORK—In what the NYS Labor Department heralded as the largest-ever dollar amount awarded in a single case of minimum-wage and overtime violations, the owner of eight Manhattan restaurants agreed to pay over two million dollars.

Tsu Tue Wang, the owner of three locations of an Asian restaurant called Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill, as well as five other establishments, agreed to pay $2.3 million to a total of 813 workers. State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said that Wang’s restaurants had been in violation of many labor laws. Workers were not only paid less than minimum wage, but were also denied overtime, paid in checks without stubs, and paid late.

The Labor Department, which has been investigating Wang’s restaurants since 2006, found that some full-time kitchen employees had been earning approximately $5 per hour, or over two dollars less per hour than the state minimum wage. Other employees, such as cooks, servers and delivery personnel, experienced similar inequities. Some individual workers, said Smith, were owed as much as $30,000.

Most of the employees of Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill, as well as the other restaurants named in the lawsuit, are Chinese. An additional term of the settlement stipulates that Wang allowed Labor Department staff to conduct educational seminars at the restaurants. This will ensure that workers understand their rights under state labor law, with the dual aim of both educating the Chinese service-industry population, and preventing similar problems from occurring in the future.

Forty-four employees of the restaurants investigated by the state have also brought federal suit against Wang. Additionally, the NYS Labor Department is investigating similar claims of wage and labor violations at a restaurant called Tomo, which was discovered to have owed 100 workers approximately $1 million. Wang claims to have no affiliation with Tomo, which has since shut its doors, but documentation suggests that that he was involved with that restaurant as well.

So far, 250 restaurant violations cases have been filed with the Labor Department in 2009. Last year, over 1,000 cases were filed.

One third of the $2.3 million is to be paid out in the next few weeks, with the remainder being distributed by July of this year.

Commissioner Smith called the pattern of violations in this instance “sickening” especially since the workers are on the job for 12 hours a day, six days a week, without being adequately compensated for their work.

 

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