WHD News Release: [02/17/2015]
Contact Name: Diana Petterson or Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4710 or x4709
Email: Petterson.Diana@dol.gov or Rodriguez.Juan@dol.gov
Release Number: 15-0106-DAL
Famous Wok restaurant franchisee must pay more than $50K to 2 employees
Owner Lixin Zhang ignores promise to resolve wage dispute, tries to deceive investigators
SANTA FE, N.M. When two Famous Wok restaurant employees in Santa Fe were due back wages based on the findings of a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation, franchise owner Lixin Zhang agreed to pay the workers. Unfortunately, Zhang didn't keep his promise. Instead, Zhang made them sign the back of blank checks and told departmental investigators that he paid the employees. The workers received nothing.
Investigators followed up to confirm the back wage payment and found that Zhang continued to violate the law by failing to provide overtime pay to employees who worked 72 to 80 hours per week. That's when the department filed a lawsuit against Zhang to collect back wages.
The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico granted summary judgment against Zhang and ordered him to pay $25,168 and an equal amount in liquidated damages to the employees for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions.
Based on Zhang's actions, the court granted an injunction to ensure he complies with the law in the future. The court also found that Zhang consistently violated the FLSA for at least the past three years, even after meeting with investigators and agreeing to abide by its terms. He continued to willfully ignore his agreement with federal regulators; attempted to conceal that he had not complied with the law and his agreement by urging employees to lie to the department; and sent erroneous and misleading documentation to the Wage and Hour Division.
"This employer willfully and repeatedly violated the law, manipulated his employees and lied to cheat them out of their wages," said Cynthia Watson, administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "This case is an example of the effort that the division will take to ensure workers receive the wages they rightfully earn."
When employees are denied their hard-earned income, the Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring that the money needed for rent, transportation and to put food on the table—ends up in the hands of those who worked for it. Since 2009, the agency has concluded investigations nationwide, resulting in more than $1.3 billion dollars in back wages for more than 1.5 million workers.
For more information about federal wage laws, or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Albuquerque District Office at 505-248-6100. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.