New York City–A Manhattan federal court has awarded over $4.6 million in back wages and damages to 36 Chinese immigrant delivery workers at two Saigon Grill restaurants in Manhattan. In a 79-page decision, federal Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger consistently found that the workers were telling the truth about their oppressive working conditions and ruled that the Saigon Grill owners had violated federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws. The Court also found that the owners of Saigon Grill fired the workers in retaliation for their plans to sue the restaurant and has scheduled hearings to determine additional damages.
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) Legal Director Ken Kimerling, who represented the Saigon Grill workers, said: “The mistreatment of delivery workers is a widespread problem throughout New York City. Restaurants make millions of dollars from the take-out and delivery of meals, yet they often pay less than the minimum wage and rarely pay overtime to the workers who provide these services. The Saigon Grill decision makes clear that this exploitation can lead to large damage claims against those who violate the law.”
In addition to the wage claims, the Court found that the immigrant delivery workers were regularly fined $20 to $200 for infractions of the restaurant’s rules or for late deliveries. The Saigon Grill owners also unlawfully required the delivery workers to buy and maintain their own bicycles and motor scooters. The Court awarded damages for both of these violations as well.
The two Saigon Grill restaurants are located on Amsterdam Avenue and 90th Street and on University Place and 12th Street. They are owned and run by Simon and Michelle Nget. The Court found that the restaurant corporations, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Nget and a third manager, were individually liable for the violations.
The workers were represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and pro bono co-counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell. AALDEF and Davis Polk have collaborated in five other lawsuits on behalf of immigrant delivery workers in New York, several of which have been settled before trial. A trial against the Republic restaurant on Union Square West is scheduled to be held in 2009.
Read the judge’s opinion here.
For more information:
212.966.5932 ext. 203
212.966.5932 ext. 201