Flushing, NY—A Korean immigrant worker, Ms. Sun Ja Yi, today received $35,493 in compensation for years of unpaid back wages and the overtime she worked at Bona Studios, Inc. (d.b.a. Club Paradise).
Ms. Yi, 65, worked from 2001 to 2005 as a cook at Club Paradise, a popular dance club in Flushing, Queens, and in April 2006 filed a federal suit to reclaim her wages.
“We are glad the defendant has paid the judgment Ms. Yi received in federal court and was entitled to,” said AALDEF Staff Attorney and Korean Workers Project Director Steven Choi. “Employment laws are in place to protect workers from exploitative conditions, and Club Paradise wrongfully withheld from Ms. Yi her rightful wages.”
As the club’s only full-time employee, Ms. Yi worked six days a week for 60 hours a week, with 15-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays. After she began working there, however, Club Paradise refused to pay Ms. Yi the agreed-upon base wage of $600 a week, and also owed her tens of thousands of dollars in overtime and spread-of-hours wages. She worked there for more than four years, cooking patrons food orders and dinner for the clubs dance teachers and waiters, washing dishes, and cleaning bathrooms. Ms. Yi stopped working at Club Paradise in order to care for her ill husband.
Ms. Yi sought legal assistance from the Korean Workers Project last year after being referred by a friend in the Korean American community. AALDEF’s Choi and pro bono co-counsel Reiko Cyr of Constantine Cannon LLP represented Ms. Yi, filing suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on her behalf last spring. Before the case went to trial, they moved for acceptance of an offer of judgment to Club Paradise, which a judge entered in October 2006. Ms. Yi received a total of more than $35,000, which will compensate her for back wages, overtime, and liquidated damages.
“I had faith from the beginning that the Korean Workers Project would help me recover my wages,” Ms. Yi told reporters today.
The Korean Workers Project provides traditional direct legal services free of charge to low-wage Korean immigrant workers through AALDEF, in conjunction with YKASECEmpowering the Korean American Community, and offers community education and outreach efforts. By combining these two approaches, the Korean Workers Project seeks to protect the rights of Korean immigrant workers and to help them achieve social and economic justice.