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The Largest South Indian Restaurant Chain in the World Just Paid Bay Area Workers $2.2 Million

Saravanaa Bhavan settled a case for Fremont, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale employees regarding alleged wage theft

The outside of a restaurant.
The Saravanaa Bhavan in Fremont.
Thomas Matthews
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

A major wage theft case was settled on October 21 by the state’s Labor Commissioner’s Office on behalf of 317 workers for restaurant chain Saravanaa Bhavan. A news release for the office says that hundreds of employees between three franchised South Bay locations of Saravanaa Bhavan were subjected to “unpaid minimum wage, overtime, meal premiums, split shift premiums, and inaccurate wage statements,” including an allegation that the restaurant kept tips from workers, too. Thanks to the settlement, each worker will receive about $7,000 and an apology from their employers.

Saravanaa Bhavan is a franchise business of Indian vegetarian restaurants with locations throughout New York; New Jersey; and Texas, and is the largest South Indian restaurant chain in the world. Now, at least in the Bay Area, the company will be required to post a notice about employees’ rights regarding tips in their restaurants and host a one-hour training about labor laws on the company’s dime. Under California law, tips belong to workers alone. The employees in question all held roles at the restaurant between February 23, 2016 and September 8, 2019, when the wage theft allegations took place at the Fremont, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale locations.

“Wage theft not only affects workers economically, but can also affect them psychologically,” California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in the organization’s press release. “My office is working to provide restorative justice to those who have suffered harm.”