Feds sue L.A. Thai restaurants for overtime violations

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(CNS) – Employment regulators announced today they are suing the owners of a popular Los Angeles Thai eatery for allegedly failing to pay more than $100,000 in overtime and firing those that complained.

U.S. Department of Labor investigators contend back wages are owed to 28 employees of Chan Dara’s two locations on Pico and Larchmont boulevards.

The federal agency alleges that between September 2009 and September 2011, Chan Dara Inc. paid employees “straight time” for all hours worked, sidestepping the premium rate for time worked in excess of 40 hours per week as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Chan Dara staff frequently worked 10 to 16 hours a day in double shifts, while the company kept two sets of payroll records, one with accurate and one with misleading information, regulators allege.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Los Angeles federal court, stems from an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found the company willfully violated federal law by not paying proper overtime wages and maintaining required records, and by terminating some employees in retaliation for exercising their rights, according to Labor Department spokesman Jose A. Carnevali.

The company has already paid a $10,000 fine for violations it admitted, officials said.

“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,” Bui alleged. “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 lawsuit seeks to have the company pay the full amount of back wages due to the affected employees plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, reinstate employees allegedly terminated in retaliation for exercising their rights and provide restitution for the employees’ lost wages.

Federal labor law requires that covered employees be paid at least the 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.

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