New York, NY—Earlier today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) announced it has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain Saigon Grill on behalf of 36 former Chinese take-out delivery employees. More than 50 workers and supporters from the Justice Will Be Served! Campaign were joined by numerous elected officials at a rally and press conference in front of the Manhattan West Side venue of Saigon Grill.
According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Saigon Grill paid the workers less than minimum wage, failed to pay them overtime, required them to buy and maintain their own bikes and scooters, obligated them to reimburse the restaurant for cash taken during a robbery, and forced them to pay fines of $20 to $200 from their tips any time they broke restaurant rules. In addition to federal and state labor law violations, the suit alleges that restaurant management retaliated against the workers.
“These delivery men were terribly exploited and mistreated by Saigon Grill,” said AALDEF Legal Director Kenneth Kimerling. “The restaurant paid them a fixed amount each month, with most of the workers earning between $1.70 an hour and $2.45 an hour—well below minimum wage. While their customers sometimes tipped them well, their bosses fined them $50 for slamming the restaurant door, which they would then have to pay out of their tips at the end of the day.”
The employees also allege that when Saigon Grill learned that the delivery workers were planning to file the lawsuit, the owners asked them to sign false statements saying that they were paid proper minimum wage and overtime pay. When the workers refused, they were fired. The suit additionally seeks to have the workers reinstated.
AALDEF filed the suit in coordination with the Justice will Be Served! Campaign, a coalition of the 318 Restaurant Workers Union, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops. Elected officials who spoke at the press conference today include New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, New York State Senator Eric Schneiderman, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and New York City Council Member Gale Brewer.