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Restaurateurs denied workers overtime and minimum wage

A group of California restaurant employees have been awarded $1.6 million in unpaid wages by the state's labor commissioner. The 47 restaurant workers were employed at Walter Café and Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine in Ukiah, both owned by the same two co-owners. Following an investigation, the restaurateurs were found to be both jointly and individually liable for the wage theft. They were ordered to reimburse the unpaid overtime to employees and pay civil penalties totaling $189,250.

The California Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement conducted the investigation into the labor violations that took place at both restaurants. Investigators found that, over a three-year period, employees were expected to work 11 hours a day with no paid meal breaks or overtime pay. Employees also routinely worked six or seven days a week and were paid less than minimum wage.

In addition to the wage theft, investigators determined that an effort was made by the restaurant owners to cover up the labor violations. According to reports, some of the employees were expected to sign time cards alleging that they had worked fewer hours than they actually had. Some of the workers kept no record of the hours they had worked at all and were paid with cash.

An employee who is being denied overtime and minimum wage has the option of filing a claim against their employer. Evidence that may help to build their case could include records of paid wages and working hours. A lawyer may be able to help when an employee has made the decision to file a claim. A lawyer could review the case and present the record of work activity before a court in order to obtain lost compensation for their client.

Source: North Bay Business Journal, "Ukiah restaurateurs fined nearly $2M for wage violations", November 15, 2013

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