Press Release

Chinese Delivery Workers File Suit against Republic Restaurant in Union Square


Employees Working 12-Hour Days Denied Minimum Wage and Overtime

New York, NY—The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has filed a lawsuit against Republic Restaurant on behalf of eight Chinese delivery workers currently employed by the Union Square eatery. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this morning, alleges that Republic paid its delivery workers substandard wages in exchange for 12-hour days and six-day workweeks, and illegally required the workers to purchase and maintain their bikes.

“The restaurant’s owners cannot continue to flout the basic laws that protect all workers, including their delivery workers,” said AALDEF Legal Director Kenneth Kimerling. “Moreover, Republic kept false records of the workers hours by drastically understating the hours they worked to give the impression that these men were paid minimum wage.”

The delivery workers typically worked shifts from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight, without any breaks. Republic paid the workers as little as $175 a week, which resulted in an hourly wage of $2.43 an hour for a 12-hour day. The men, all Chinese immigrants, worked a collective total of 32 years delivering the restaurants take-out to neighboring homes and businesses, but never received overtime wages as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. The workers also did not receive an additional hours pay when their workdays exceeded ten hours, as state law requires.

Chen v. Republic Restaurant Corp. is the third federal lawsuit that AALDEF has filed on behalf of restaurant delivery workers organized by the Justice Will Be Served! Campaign, a coalition of the 318 Restaurant Workers Union, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops. AALDEF filed suit against the Vietnamese restaurant chain Saigon Grill in March 2007 and against the Upper East Side Chinese restaurant Our Place in August 2006.

The suit seeks compensation for the eight workers pay at minimum wage, overtime and spread of hours pay, and liquidated damages. Brian Weinstein, Jonathan Adler and William Miller (not yet admitted) of Davis Polk & Wardwell are pro bono co-counsel in Chen v. Republic Restaurant Corp.