Labor Seal NYS Department of Labor                          

Contact Leo Rosales Cell: 518-281-6167 Office: 518-457-5519 Email: leo.rosales@labor.ny.gov www.labor.ny.gov
LABOR DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES RECORD $2.3 MILLION IN WAGES RECOVERED FOR RESTAURANT WORKERS IN NEW YORK CITY

New York City, NY (March 18, 2009) - At a press conference today in New York City, State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith announced the findings of an investigation into the labor practices at nine Asian restaurants across the city. As a result of this investigation, Tsu Yue Wang has agreed to pay more than 800 workers $2.3 million in minimum and overtime wage underpayments. This represents the largest amount ever collected in one case in State Labor Department history. In addition, Mr. Wang has agreed to allow Labor Department staff to conduct know-your-rights seminars at each of the restaurants in an effort to educate workers on their rights under state labor law.

Among eight of the restaurants, three are known as Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill, while the others go by the names of Ollies, Ollie’s Brasserie/Mainland, Japanese Restaurant, Chao Zhou Restaurant and Central Kitchen.

During the investigation, Labor Department staff also uncovered a restaurant known as Tomo, which has since gone out of business. There, they found that approximately 100 workers were collectively owed more than $1 million. For many months, Mr. Wang claimed that he was not the owner of this establishment, even though corporate documents state otherwise. The Department of Labor is currently endeavoring to recoup these wages on behalf of the workers.

“These restaurants are known throughout the city for supplying Asian food for families at reasonable prices,” said Commissioner Smith. “But as families enjoyed quality food at a price they could afford, workers toiled under the weight of below-minimum wages, late paychecks and lack of overtime payments. Many of these workers have waited a long time to reclaim these hard-earned wages. Today, I’m pleased to announce that their wait is over.”

At some of the restaurants, workers were found to be owed as much as $30,000 over the course of many years. In addition, Labor Department investigators encountered disturbing trends among workers at nearly every one of the restaurants they visited. For example, full-time kitchen helpers who worked up to 60 hours per week were paid $1,200 a month. This balances out to less than $300 per week for 60 hours of work – or less than $5 per hour. Currently, an employee working 60 hours per week must be paid at least $500.50 per week – nearly double the amount that these workers were paid. Similar trends were found among the cooks, delivery persons and waitresses.

Commissioner Smith continued, “Nobody wants to dine in a sweatshop, and with this enforcement action, we are slamming the door shut on the mistreatment of workers at every one of these establishments.”