FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thai Community Development Center Contact: Panida Rzonca, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bet Tzedek Contact: Allison Lee, email@example.com
OCT 3, 2018, LOS ANGELES, CA — Sanamluang, a popular Thai restaurant and late-night spot in North Hollywood, received citations from the Labor Commissioner’s Office for over $800,000 in unpaid wages and penalties combined. This case sends a powerful message to restaurants throughout Los Angeles: Pay the new, higher minimum wage and proper overtime in the City of Los Angeles, or you will pay the price. The Thai Community Development Center and Bet Tzedek, community‑based organizations that assist with workers’ rights issues, applaud the Labor Commissioner’s Office for its thorough investigation into this wage violation.
The Sanamluang workers have experienced widespread violations, including the employer’s pattern of failing to pay workers the proper minimum wage over the past twenty years. The employer’s wage theft has only worsened since the City of Los Angeles increased the minimum wage in 2016 to protect its low-wage workers; indeed, Sanamluang has attempted to hide employees to avoid the City’s higher minimum wage for employers with more than 25 employees. Indeed, some workers are still paid as little as $5 per hour—$8.25 below the current applicable minimum wage of $13.25. Although the workers regularly worked more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours of week, the employers did not pay overtime.
The Thai Community Development Center and Bet Tzedek referred the case to the Labor Commissioner’s Office’s Bureau of Field Enforcement, which investigates workplace wide complaints. None of the workers dared to come forward individually despite their maltreatment because, like many workers in the Thai community, they feared being blacklisted. The investigation by the Labor Commissioner’s Office was the first opportunity these workers had to tell of their mistreatment.
The workers in this case are particularly courageous to come forward given what drove them to report the wage theft. In August 2017, the California Board of Equalization and the California Highway Patrol raided the business. They handcuffed the workers during the raid, as if they were criminals, and did not provide a translator until well-after the workers had been handcuffed. In the following days, Thai Community Development Center and Bet Tzedek met with restaurant staff regarding their working conditions and referred the case to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
Quotes from workers:
“I have been working at Sanamluang in North Hollywood for years. At first, I loved working here but after new management started, everything changed. There is no consideration paid to workers. They have us work longer hours and take on additional duties because they are understaffed without any additional pay. I just want the owner to have compassion for workers; not take advantage of us and pay us legitimately.” – Moo[*]
“When I began working here, I thought it was a regular job where I would get paid for working. After a while, I felt like they treated me like family. But now, I understand they only did this to take advantage of me. Sometimes I was even bullied into whatever the owner needed me to do. I wish they were not so selfish and greedy. If they could just do things by the book and stop threatening workers. Just because you are the boss doesn’t give you the right to treat your workers this way.” –Pla*
“The day I started working, I felt like I was lucky to get the job. I never thought that I would face work conditions that included extended working hours, unlawful wages, and other hardships. I was taken advantage of by the greed of the owner. I want to see change for the better, for justice, and for fairness, which are rights that we deserve.” –Mod*
Quote from Thai Community Development Center: “The Thai Community Development Center applauds the Labor Commission for its thorough investigation of wage and hour violations. Though these issues came to light after the Board of Equalization’s investigation, the handcuffing of the workers by the California Highway Patrol—without an interpreter to explain what was happening—must never happen again. Wage theft is a violation of human rights; it’s just not right to make the victims feel like criminals.” – Panida Rzonca, Directing Attorney
Quote from Bet Tzedek: “The courage of these workers has sent a message to restaurant owners in Los Angeles: you must pay the minimum wage and proper overtime in the City of Los Angeles or you will be caught. You cannot avoid these laws by falsely claiming less than 25 workers to qualify for a lower minimum wage, fabricating hours, or paying a flat salary for hourly employees working well more than 8 hours a day.” – Casey Raymond, Bet Tzedek Legal Services Skadden Fellow
About Bet Tzedek
Bet Tzedek is committed to providing free legal services to those that need them most. Bet Tzedek attorneys and advocates help people of all communities and generations secure life’s necessities. Wherever people are in crisis, Bet Tzedek’s core services and rapid response programs provide stability and hope. Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek – Los Angeles’ House of Justice – helps over 40,000 people each year.
About Thai Community Development Center
The Thai Community Development Center works to advance the social and economic well-being of low and moderate-income Thai individuals in the greater Los Angeles area through a broad and comprehensive community development strategy including human rights advocacy, affordable housing, access to healthcare, promotion of small businesses, neighborhood empowerment, and social enterprises. Founded in 1994, the Thai CDC believes that all people have a right to a decent standard of living and quality of life.