Seven Bay Area restaurants were cited by the state labor commissioner's office on Thursday for wage theft violations involving more than 400 workers who were not fairly compensated for working more than 10 hours of overtime in a typical week.
The citations involved 431 workers, between Kome Japanese Seafood & Buffet in Daly City (133 workers, $5.16 million) and six Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine locations (298 workers, $4.96 million) in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Burlingame, Belmont and San Carlos.
The commissioner's office investigated the seven restaurants' payrolls and found that dishwashers, cooks and sushi chefs were paid a fixed salary that did not account for overtime, even though they typically worked more than 55 hours per week, the news release says.
“We were working such long hours,” one cook told the Asian Law Caucus under condition of anonymity, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “We were so tired and didn’t have time for our families. We hope this case will finally get us the wages that we believe we are owed.”
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Other workers — including hosts, servers and bussers — also were underpaid for working extra hours. Some were also paid less than $11 an hour, with employers counting tips toward minimum wage requirements.
“Taking tips from workers and paying workers by salary to deny them their hard-earned overtime pay is wage theft,” California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su said in a statement.
The citations call for unpaid wage repayment and civil penalties.
The $10 million total is the biggest fine resulting from a labor office investigation that's listed in the California Department of Industrial Relations online news archive going back to November 2014, when 10 Northern California buffets were fined a total of $16 million.
The 2014 investigation determined that servers were working 72 hours a week and being paid an average of just $1.15 per hour. A $3.66 million wage theft fine was handed to Golden Dragon Buffet in Roseville.
California's minimum wage rose to $11 on Jan. 1 of this year. It will reach $15 by 2022.