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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [04/11/2012]
Contact Name: Jose A. Carnevali or Deanne Amaden
Phone Number: (415) 625-2631 or x2630
Release Number: 12-0623-SAN

US Department of Labor sues 2 Los Angeles Thai restaurants for failing to pay overtime, retaliating against employees for exercising legal rights

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Labor has sued two Chan Dara Thai restaurants in Los Angeles, as well as the restaurants' parent companies and officers, for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit resulted from an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division that found the defendants willfully violated the FLSA by failing to pay proper overtime wages and maintain required records, and by terminating some employees in retaliation for exercising their FLSA rights.

Investigators from the Wage and Hour Division's Los Angeles District Office identified a total of $104,807 in overtime back wages due, including $56,910 owed to 13 employees of the Chan Dara restaurant at 11940 Pico Blvd. and $47,897 owed to 15 employees of the Chan Dara restaurant at 310 N. Larchmont Blvd. The investigators found that between September 2009 and September 2011, the restaurants paid employees "straight time" for all hours worked and did not pay a premium rate for hours worked in excess of 40 per week as required by the FLSA. Employees often worked 10-16 hours a day in double shifts. Additionally, the employer admitted to maintaining two sets of payroll records, one with accurate and one with misleading information, and to paying straight time for all hours worked.

"This employer not only failed to pay workers according to the law, but apparently retaliated against employees," said Kimchi Bui, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Los Angeles office. "The defendants continue to withhold payments of unpaid overtime compensation due to their employees. We will not tolerate these actions, and will demand restitution, seek penalties and take legal action when necessary to protect vulnerable workers from employers who demonstrate a clear disregard for the law."

The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Los Angeles filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The suit asks the court to order the defendants to pay the full amount of back wages due to the affected employees plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, reinstate employees terminated in retaliation for exercising their rights and provide restitution for the employees' lost wages. The suit also seeks to permanently prohibit the defendants from future violations of the law. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.

Additionally, the division assessed civil penalties of $10,000 against the restaurants for the willful violations, which the defendants already have paid. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowledge of or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The department's Fact Sheet No. 77A, "Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act," is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.htm.

Information on establishments investigated will be included in the division's enforcement database, which can be viewed online at http://ogesdw.dol.gov and is also accessible via the "Eat Shop Sleep" smartphone application, which can be found on the Labor Department's app Web page, http://www.dol.gov/dol/apps/winners.htm. Consumers, employees and other members of the public can use the app to learn if a restaurant, hotel or retail establishment has been investigated by the division and whether FLSA violations were found. Businesses will have a greater incentive to comply with the law now that their compliance track records are publicly available.

For more information about the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Los Angeles office at 213-894-6375. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.