SF Examiner — San Francisco Sues Chinatown Restaurant for Wage Theft

SAN FRANCISCO – City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit Tuesday against a Chinatown restaurant and pastry shop for alleged underpayment of workers.

Herrera said in a news release that he was hoping to recover $440,000 in back pay for seven employees of Dick Lee Pastry, Inc., located at 716 Jackson St.

Herrera said the employees worked six days per week, with shifts between 11 and 14 hours per day, and were paid between $3.02 and $3.91 per hour, based on their semi-monthly wages. They also never received overtime pay as required by law, Herrera said.

San Francisco’s minimum wage is $9.92.

“Dick Lee Pastry stands out even among the most egregious perpetrators of wage theft in San Francisco,” Herrera said.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, also alleges that shop owners Peter Yu and Ada Chiu obstructed an investigation by The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, which began looking into the case in late 2009, and retaliated against employees who were cooperating with the investigation, Herrera’s office said.

Reached by phone late Tuesday, Chiu said she had no comment about the lawsuit and referred questions to her attorney, Steven Gruel.

Gruel said he hadn’t had time yet to review the suit, and couldn’t address the specific allegations, but was familiar with the case, having represented the owners during the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement investigation.

Gruel said he informed the City Attorney’s Office in 2010 of “substantial evidence of lack of truthfulness on the part of the wage claimants.”

“The folks making these allegations aren’t trustworthy,” Gruel said.

Gruel described his clients as “hardworking immigrants living the American dream.”

“It’s unfortunate and incorrect that the City Attorney’s Office has chosen to portray them as lawbreakers,” Gruel said. “It’s not the truth.”

Ari Burack

July 12, 2011