A local Thai restaurant owner was convicted of grand theft and labor violations and sentenced to two years in jail in a landmark wage theft case. The owner of the now closed restaurant was also ordered to repay $20,000 in stolen wages and tips to six restaurant workers. [TWEET THIS]
The owner of Antique Thai Cuisine in San Diego, Zihan Zhang, 38, targeted those who were promised wages but then often paid only in tips. Some of the kitchen staff was either unpaid, or paid just a few dollars an hour and forced to work during breaks and meal periods. The owner further collected a portion of the tips from the unpaid workers, and charged them $5 per shift for “glass breakage” to offset her operating costs.
“With the Labor Commissioner’s assistance, we delivered justice for workers who were repeatedly abused by a dishonest employer,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “Prosecuting these types of cases helps ensure a level playing field for honest employers to fairly compete in the marketplace.”
The wage theft came to light in 2014 after some of the workers filed wage claims with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. The Labor Commissioner’s Office cited Antique Thai $36,617 in July of 2014, including assessments of $14,567 for rest and meal period premiums, wages, overtime and liquidated damages, and civil penalties of $22,050 for failure to provide itemized wage statements as well as overtime, minimum wage, rest and meal period requirements.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office referred the case to prosecutors in August 2014, and worked with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office to bring the case to trial. It is the first criminal jury trial conviction in California for felony grand wage theft by false pretenses.
Zhang was convicted in May of two felony counts of grand theft of labor for failing to pay workers as promised, one felony count of grand theft of tips and six misdemeanor charges, including two for refusing to pay wages when she had the ability to do so and four counts for failing to provide itemized wage statements. She was sentenced on December 2 to two years in jail.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office, officially known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, is a division of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).
Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734). The California Workers’ Information line at 866-924-9757 provides recorded information in English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics. [TWEET THIS]