California Labor Commissioner’s Office Reaches $2.2 Million Settlement Securing Unpaid Wage for Hundreds of Bay Area Restaurant Workers
Oakland - The Labor Commissioner’s Office has reached a $2.2 million settlement with the owners of three Saravanaa Bhavan restaurant franchises in Fremont, Milpitas and Sunnyvale. The settlement secures compensation to 317 employees at the three restaurant locations for unpaid minimum wage, overtime, meal premiums, split shift premiums, and inaccurate wage statements. The settlement also covers an allegation that the employers kept tips that had been left for employees by their customers. Each worker will receive, on average, approximately $7,000. As part of the settlement, the employers must make a personal apology to the employees.
“Wage theft not only affects workers economically, but can also affect them psychologically,” said California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “My office is working to provide restorative justice to those who have suffered harm. In this case, it includes ensuring workers are paid what they are owed and having their employers acknowledge their wrongdoing.”
The settlement follows an investigation by the Labor Commissioner’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) Unit, which found Labor Code violations that affected the 317 employees including servers, bussers, hosts, kitchen staff and cooks who worked at the three restaurants between February 23, 2016 and September 8, 2019.
Based on its investigation, the PAGA Unit issued a citation for wages and penalties on October 18, 2019, for a total of $6,108,099.
The citation was issued to Spice Route, LLC, Southern Spice, LLC and Supreme Cuisine, LLC and managing partners Asker Junaid and P.K. Perumal.
The settlement was finalized on September 21, 2022, and in addition to the monetary settlement, it requires that the restaurants’ owners personally apologize to workers for the violations, allow a one-hour training about labor laws on paid time, and post a notice about employees’ rights regarding tips. The trainings will be interpreted into Tamil, Spanish and Nepali at the employer’s expense.
Because the Labor Commissioner does not have contact information for all workers owed money, it requests help in locating individuals who worked at the Saravanaa Bhavan locations at 3720 Mowry Ave., Fremont; 438 Barber Lane, Milpitas; or 1305 S Mary Ave., Sunnyvale between February 23, 2016 and September 8, 2019. Employees who worked at these restaurants during this time are asked to call Deputy John McDonald with the PAGA Unit at (510) 882-5214.
Under California law, tips are the sole property of those employees to or for whom they were paid, given, or left. Workers who believe they have not been paid properly, or who have questions about other labor laws, such as those that prohibit retaliation for making a wage claim, can call the Labor Commissioner’s Office at 833-LCO-INFO (833-526-4636).
When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid minimum wages plus interest. Waiting time penalties are imposed when the employer intentionally fails to pay all wages due to the employee at the time of separation. This penalty is calculated by taking the employee’s daily rate of pay and multiplying it by the number of days the employee was not paid, up to a maximum of 30 days.
Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime, and other labor law violations and calculate payments owed and penalties due. When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid wages plus interest.
The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, also known as the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations so workers and employers understand legal protections, obligations and the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.
Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161
Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: MakeItFair@dir.ca.gov