News

Rangoon Ruby settles wage theft case for $4 million

Three hundred employees to receive unpaid wages

The owners of local Burmese restaurant chain Rangoon Ruby have agreed to pay a $4 million settlement to cover unpaid wages for about 300 workers.

The Asian Law Caucus, which represented the employees who brought the case to the California Labor Commissioner's Bureau of Field Enforcement, announced the settlement on Thursday. The labor commissioner ordered the restaurant chain last summer to pay $5 million in back wages and penalties to the state for wage-theft violations.

Max Lee and John Lee of Rangoon Ruby Investment LLC and Burma Ruby Investment LLC operate six restaurants throughout the Bay Area, including Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby in downtown Palo Alto. Stanford University terminated its contract with Rangoon Ruby for an on-campus cafe after finding out about the state citation, according to the Stanford Daily.

"We were tired and frustrated because we were working extra hours without any additional pay," Ah Zhang, one of the employees who reached out to the Asian Law Caucus for help in 2017, said in a press release. The San Francisco nonprofit advocates for the legal and civil rights of low-income Asian Pacific American communities.

In an email to the Weekly, John Lee wrote that they had disputed the claims and that they "regret the tenor of many of the communications about the settlement.

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"We are now in full compliance with our wage payment obligations and are committed to maintaining full compliance with all of our obligations in the future," he wrote.

Sai Leng, a longtime Burma Ruby employee, said in the Asian Law Caucus press release that she was not allowed to take time off from work to see the doctor.

"When I took the time off anyway, I wasn't paid and I had to make up the time I missed," she said. The Asian Law Caucus noted that this violates state law, which requires employers to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

The state labor commission's investigation found that 87 cooks, who were paid a fixed salary at the six restaurants, "typically" logged more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Lee said this was the main issue in the case -- whether Rangoon Ruby chefs were entitled to overtime payments or were exempt, which he described as a "very common issue in the restaurant industry."

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"Many restaurants pay their chefs’ salaries, just as Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby did," Lee wrote.

Just over 200 servers, hosts, dishwashers and bussers at the restaurant chain were also not paid a daily, required extra hour when their employer scheduled them to work split shifts, according to the state labor office. (When minimum-wage employees work a split shift, they are entitled to one hour of minimum wage as a premium.)

According to the Asian Law Caucus, workers were regularly called in to work before their scheduled shifts without overtime pay to handle delivery orders, many of which "came from food delivery apps popular in the Bay Area."

Some staff also relied on their employers for housing, according to the Asian Law Caucus. Lee said they provided chefs "with the option of free housing for as long as they wished to use the housing."

The Rangoon Ruby owners were cited for unpaid minimum wages, overtime, paid sick leave, inaccurate pay statements and related penalties. As the citation hearing started, they decided to settle the case, according to the Asian Law Caucus.

The settlement covers the full amount of unpaid wages owed to the workers as well as penalties.

"We worked very hard with the Labor Commissioner’s office to resolve this matter on positive terms," Lee said. "We support the Labor Commissioner’s efforts to see that all restaurant workers are paid appropriately."

A Daly City restaurant cited by the California Labor Commissioner for wage theft at the same time as Rangoon Ruby last summer is appealing the citations but closed on Jan. 14, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Rangoon Ruby settles wage theft case for $4 million

Three hundred employees to receive unpaid wages

by Elena Kadvany / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 3:28 pm
Updated: Mon, Jan 21, 2019, 8:29 am

The owners of local Burmese restaurant chain Rangoon Ruby have agreed to pay a $4 million settlement to cover unpaid wages for about 300 workers.

The Asian Law Caucus, which represented the employees who brought the case to the California Labor Commissioner's Bureau of Field Enforcement, announced the settlement on Thursday. The labor commissioner ordered the restaurant chain last summer to pay $5 million in back wages and penalties to the state for wage-theft violations.

Max Lee and John Lee of Rangoon Ruby Investment LLC and Burma Ruby Investment LLC operate six restaurants throughout the Bay Area, including Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby in downtown Palo Alto. Stanford University terminated its contract with Rangoon Ruby for an on-campus cafe after finding out about the state citation, according to the Stanford Daily.

"We were tired and frustrated because we were working extra hours without any additional pay," Ah Zhang, one of the employees who reached out to the Asian Law Caucus for help in 2017, said in a press release. The San Francisco nonprofit advocates for the legal and civil rights of low-income Asian Pacific American communities.

In an email to the Weekly, John Lee wrote that they had disputed the claims and that they "regret the tenor of many of the communications about the settlement.

"We are now in full compliance with our wage payment obligations and are committed to maintaining full compliance with all of our obligations in the future," he wrote.

Sai Leng, a longtime Burma Ruby employee, said in the Asian Law Caucus press release that she was not allowed to take time off from work to see the doctor.

"When I took the time off anyway, I wasn't paid and I had to make up the time I missed," she said. The Asian Law Caucus noted that this violates state law, which requires employers to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

The state labor commission's investigation found that 87 cooks, who were paid a fixed salary at the six restaurants, "typically" logged more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Lee said this was the main issue in the case -- whether Rangoon Ruby chefs were entitled to overtime payments or were exempt, which he described as a "very common issue in the restaurant industry."

"Many restaurants pay their chefs’ salaries, just as Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby did," Lee wrote.

Just over 200 servers, hosts, dishwashers and bussers at the restaurant chain were also not paid a daily, required extra hour when their employer scheduled them to work split shifts, according to the state labor office. (When minimum-wage employees work a split shift, they are entitled to one hour of minimum wage as a premium.)

According to the Asian Law Caucus, workers were regularly called in to work before their scheduled shifts without overtime pay to handle delivery orders, many of which "came from food delivery apps popular in the Bay Area."

Some staff also relied on their employers for housing, according to the Asian Law Caucus. Lee said they provided chefs "with the option of free housing for as long as they wished to use the housing."

The Rangoon Ruby owners were cited for unpaid minimum wages, overtime, paid sick leave, inaccurate pay statements and related penalties. As the citation hearing started, they decided to settle the case, according to the Asian Law Caucus.

The settlement covers the full amount of unpaid wages owed to the workers as well as penalties.

"We worked very hard with the Labor Commissioner’s office to resolve this matter on positive terms," Lee said. "We support the Labor Commissioner’s efforts to see that all restaurant workers are paid appropriately."

A Daly City restaurant cited by the California Labor Commissioner for wage theft at the same time as Rangoon Ruby last summer is appealing the citations but closed on Jan. 14, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Comments

Mina T
Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 12:29 am
Mina T, Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 12:29 am


Taking advantage of your workers isn’t a good PR move Rangoon Ruby. Maybe they should consider changing the restaurant name to Rotton Ruby. I hope others who are being taken advantage of can call out for help. The owners should also be facing criminal charges.

I know of another restaurant in downtown Palo Alto going the same thing to their employees. How can consumers speak up for the voiceless?

Can undocumented people apply for a u -visa due to wage theft?


musical
Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2019 at 3:10 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2019 at 3:10 am

How much of the $4 million is left after Federal, State, and FICA withholding?


resident
Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 9:26 am
resident, Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

@Mina - do you have any evidence that this restaurant is hiring undocumented workers? Or are you just saying that because most of the workers are non-white?


Mina T
Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 12:35 pm
Mina T, Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 12:35 pm

@Resident

“I know of another restaurant in downtown Palo Alto going the same thing to their employees. How can consumers speak up for the voiceless?”

I don’t see how this phrase was referring to Rotton Ruby. Many of the restaurants workers in Palo Alto are non documented.


I sure hope they press criminal charges against the thugs owners.
Having them pay $4 million isn’t enough, that’s out right exploitation.
Slavery ended yearrs ago!
I hope this Rotton Ruby serves as an example for the others restaurants abusing of workers!

I can’t ever step foot in an establishment like Rotton Ruby. Imagine if one of the workers never stood up for themselves these bags of — would of been doing the same thing today!


To others workers being exploited please contact the Asian Law Caucus !


Mina T
Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 1:13 pm
Mina T, Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Dear Sisters & Brothers, of the Palo Alto Community,

I'm moving overseas on a missionary trip as I write this message.
I’d love if this message could get to the City Hall. This is a great shame to the community. Let’s not leave it to the state alone to handle with $ 4 million payback.
Let’s fight back to thugs who think they can operate as they please in our city by exploiting our service workers and undocumented!

Let be different and support the people who support us! We have no tolerances for establishments such as Rotton Ruby and the others who are hiding on the sidelines.



The city of Palo Alto should ADVOCATE for all workers in the city, especially the service's workers by hosting a “ Know Your Rights Workshop” In which workers would be able to come and learn about what’s legal from illegal while working. Maybe the Asian Law Caucus can come out and present the information along side some immigration attorneys for our undocumented community members.
We should also have a workers rights clinic in which employers would have to undergo some sort of training as to what’s legal and illegal under the law.


Rotton Ruby is just the tip of the ICEBERG!

WAGE Theft is the elephant in room, not the wall!

Wage Theft should be a criminal offense and punishable under the law!


someone concerned
Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2019 at 8:06 pm
someone concerned, Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2019 at 8:06 pm

This issue is far more common across restaurants and perhaps hotels/motels too. Many people especially foreign students do work part time in restaurants and ethnic grocery stores and they who are not supposed to work and make money while the are on F1-visas. And undocumented workers working in restaurants and ethnic grocery stores is a very common thing and this is the reason for the exploitation of under pay and over work,etc.. Liberals need to have some common sense and should let the federal laws apply to businesses such as the e-verify.


R.Davis
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2019 at 8:27 am
R.Davis, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2019 at 8:27 am

QUOTE: This issue is far more common across restaurants and perhaps hotels/motels too.
QUOTE:...undocumented workers working in restaurants and ethnic grocery stores is a very common thing and this is the reason for the exploitation of under pay and over work, etc..

Well stated as this common practice is yet another example of the exploitation of those desperate for work and/or without a voice to raise further awareness & reform.


Green Gables
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2019 at 11:15 am
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2019 at 11:15 am

Not paying for hours worked had been going on for many many years to everybody. My son was a line cook at Stars and the employees were paid for 8 hours; they worked 12 hours. I called the Labor Board and turned in a complaint form, and everyone got back pay for a year. Jeremiah Tower was just CHEAP. He was not cooking; was seldom in the restaurant, was sued frequently, and traveled much looking for a “house boy”


Erin Woo
Stanford
on Jan 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm
Erin Woo, Stanford
on Jan 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm

@Mina — what other restaurant is doing the same thing to their employees? I'm an editor at The Stanford Daily, and we'd be interested in looking into this further. Please email me at [email protected] if you'd like to get in touch.


Evelyn
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2019 at 10:56 pm
Evelyn, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2019 at 10:56 pm

This is good and bad, the workers get paid back is good; now that people dislike the owner or maybe even the restaurant, the slowing business will reduce the amount of work for the workers and their pay, that’s bad. At the end, what is the result? Who knows!


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