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Rangoon Ruby Chain Settles $4 Million Wage Theft Lawsuit With Restaurant Workers

Workers say they were basically on call but denied overtime

Rangoon Ruby/Yelp

Burmese restaurant chain Rangoon Ruby has agreed to pay $4 million to about 300 workers to settle a wage theft lawsuit before the California Labor Commissioner, the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus announced yesterday.

The $4 million represents the amount owed in unpaid wages and penalties to workers, who described unpaid overtime work including “on-call” working conditions at Rangoon Ruby restaurants. The chain, which is owned by Max Lee and John Lee, operates in San Francisco, San Carlos, Burlingame, Belmont, and Palo Alto, where management also runs Burma Ruby Burmese Cuisine.

“We were tired and frustrated because we were working extra hours, without any additional pay,” Ah Zhang, one of the worker leaders, said according to a press release from the Asian Law Caucus, which represented the Rangoon Ruby workers.

Another worker, Sai Leng, describes being ill and seeking time off to see a doctor. Management denied her request and docked her pay when she went to see the doctor anyway, she claimed. State law requires employers to give workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

Rangoon Ruby Workers approached the Asian Law Caucus in 2017 to report their conditions. They described being summoned for unscheduled shifts without overtime pay to handle online delivery orders. For many of the workers, who were housed in dormitories by Rangoon Ruby, the situation was precarious.

“The workers who came to us weren’t sure what their legal rights were, and were worried about what would happen if they came forward,” Palyn Hung Mitchell, a staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, said according to a press release. “It was even harder for some of the workers who relied on the employer not just for work but for housing as well.”

This summer, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement cited a group of seven Bay Area restaurants, including Rangoon Ruby, for $10 million in wage theft. The other main alleged culprit cited at the time was Kome Japanese Seafood Buffet in Daly City. Kome was said to have stolen more than $5 million from 133 workers at its restaurant. Earlier this week, Kome abruptly closed its doors and laid off its staff, who are still seeking restitution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported,

The Rangoon Ruby settlement is just the latest victory for restaurant workers in the Bay Area this month. Staff at the now-closed Mango Garden restaurants will receive wage theft repayments of more than $1 million, the Alameda District Attorney’s Office announced last week.

According to a 2017 report by the Economic Policy Institute, Wage theft in California can cost workers up to $2 billion per year.