Economic Justice

Chen v. TYT East Corp., (S.D.N.Y.) AALDEF represented 22 waiters and bussers in a claim for minimum wages, overtime pay, and unpaid wages against a restaurant in Chinatown. In addition, the restaurant had closed owing several weeks of pay. The corporation that was the owner of the restaurant was a wholly owned subsidiary of TYT East Corporation. TYT was the lessee of the building that housed the restaurant and had set up the restaurant and hired its general manager. TYT and the restaurant corporation had the same boards of directors. In March 2012, the Court found that TYT and the restaurant corporation were in fact a single entity and therefore TYT was responsible for the labor violations of its subsidiary. After that determination, the parties agreed on the damages owed the plaintiffs and plaintiffs were also awarded attorneys’ fees in May 2013. The decision was a precedent, as the use of false subsidiaries is another ploy in employer’s efforts to evade responsibility for violations of labor laws. (Co-counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell)

Ho v. Sim Enterprises, (S.D.N.Y.) The thirteen plaintiffs in this case were garment workers in a factory in Chinatown. As in most garment factories, the plaintiffs were piece workers and a few were paid by the day. But despite regular 6 and 7 day weeks with long hours each day, no one was paid overtime. The factory changed corporate owners almost every year, but were continually managed by the same boss and supervisor. After inducing the workers to continue working with promises to pay, the boss then just closed and locked the doors. The factory closed in October 2010 still owing the workers several months of unpaid wages, estimated to be almost $120,000. In May 2014, following a trial, a Manhattan federal judge awarded the garment workers over $1.2 million in damages for unpaid minimum wage and overtime pay owed between 2005 to 2010. By the time of the judgment, the boss had fled to China and claimed he had no money. After several unsuccessful efforts to discover his assets, besides his jointly-owned home with his wife, the plaintiffs forced the boss into bankruptcy court. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the workers were able to obtain $120,000 from the boss.

Kim v. Kum Gang, Inc., (S.D.N.Y.) The plaintiffs are waiters, bussers, and a kitchen worker in one of the most popular and successful Korean restaurants in New York, Kum Gang San. Kum Gang San runs a restaurant with branches in Flushing, Queens, which includes banquet facilities and provides offsite catering, and in Manhattan on 32nd Street, in the heart of Koreatown. Both restaurants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Despite the required 12-hour shifts, the workers were not paid overtime. In addition, the restaurant took about 8 or 9% of the tips set aside for the wait staff on credit cards and an additional 10% of the tips set aside for the wait staff in the banquet halls and catering events. In 2011, the restaurant had previously been found to violate labor laws by the New York State Department of Labor for underpaying its staff in the Manhattan location and ordered to pay $1.7 million in wages and penalties. Despite these past violations, the restaurant continued its unlawful pay practices. In late 2012, the employees obtained a temporary restraining order barring the restaurant owner from retaliating against them for asserting their labor rights. After a four-day trial in March 2015, a Manhattan federal magistrate judge awarded $2.67 million in damages to the nine Korean and two Latino workers.

By the time of the judgment, the restaurants’ owner, Ji Sung Yoo, had already closed the Manhattan restaurant and quickly filed for bankruptcy for his Flushing restaurant. Plaintiffs also discovered that Yoo had fraudulently transferred his interests in three properties he owned in New York in 2010 and 2011 to avoid paying his judgments to the Department of Labor.

In 2015, plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit (Kim v. Yoo, S.D.N.Y.) against the restaurants’ owner for fraudulent conveyances, in order to reverse these transfers and sell the properties to obtain payment of their judgment. After a trial in early 2018, the district court found that all three property transfers were fraudulent and ordered the conveyances to be set aside. Because Ji Sung Yoo’s wife, Sandra mortgaged two of the properties after the transfers, the court ordered her to pay back the mortgages to return the two properties to their full value. (co-counsel Shearman & Sterling and Latino Justice PRLDEF)

Ke et al., v. Jubao House Inc. et al. (S.D.N.Y.) This wage and hour case involved two Chinese American delivery workers who were employed by a restaurant in downtown Manhattan. The workers were grossly underpaid and subject to poor treatment. Both worked 65 to 75 hours per week, with no sick days or option to take time off, yet were paid only $1,000 per month–well under half of what they were owed under New York and federal minimum wage and overtime laws. The workers were required to purchase and maintain their own delivery bikes and were often dealt arbitrary “punishments” by their supervisors. For example, one of the plaintiffs was forced to pay $230 for an order that he was unable to deliver after being trapped in an elevator. The case settled in April 2016.

Xiao v. Finest Asian Style Cuisine Inc, et al. (E.D.N.Y.) AALDEF represented a Chinese American cashier/server who was employed by a sushi restaurant in Flushing. She worked at the restaurant for eight months, working seven days and 75 hours per week, where she was denied sick days and even meal breaks during the day. She was underpaid by over $1,300 per month and 50% of her tips were stolen. Her supervisors also engaged in arbitrary punitive behavior again her: they refused to allow her to sit down during work hours, threw her cell phone, cursed at her, and broke her lunch box. The case settled in August 2016.

Chen et al. v. Little Neck Fun Inc. et al. (E.D.N.Y.) The plaintiffs in this case are four Chinese American restaurant workers, three waiters and one busser, at a popular restaurant in Little Neck, New York. The busser worked “off the books” and was paid all in cash, working 67 hours a week at an effective rate of $6.90 per hour, without any overtime pay. The waiters were paid the tipped minimum and overtime wages, yet were forced to sign–as a condition of employment–a contract to surrender 10% of their tips to management, costing each of them thousands of dollars per year. In June 2017, the matter was settled for $123,000.

Rahman v. Ghandi Cafe (S.D.N.Y.) The plaintiff was a waiter for an Indian restaurant in Greenwich Village in New York City. He worked many overtime hours, and his tips were taken by his employer. In April 2018, the matter was settled for $60,000. (co-counsel Davis, Polk & Wardwell)

Yang v. Chung Hwa Tenants Corp. (N.Y. Sup. Ct.) This wage case was filed in March 2015 on behalf of three doormen in a residential building in Brooklyn. They worked 12-hour shifts but were not paid overtime. In February 2018, the matter was settled with each plaintiff receiving approximately $30,000.