justice for saigon grill workers

Whoa. Looks like it's time for Saigon Grill to pay up. A federal judge has awarded $4.6 million in back pay and damages to 36 delivery workers at two Saigon Grill restaurants in Manhattan, finding blatant and systematic violations of minimum wage and overtime laws: For $2-an-Hour Restaurant Deliverymen, a $4.6 Million Judgment.
In a decision dated Monday and released on Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger of United States District Court in Manhattan found violations of federal and state wage laws in awarding up to $328,000 to some of the deliverymen. On issue after issue, Judge Dolinger ruled against Saigon Grill and its owners, Simon and Michelle Nget, saying they paid $520 a month to many deliverymen who worked more than 260 hours each month. This meant their pay came to less than $2 an hour, far less than the federal and state minimum wage.
Two bucks an hour! That's downright criminal. The deliverymen, all immigrants from Fujian Province in China, testified that they were required to work 11 to 13 hours a day, usually six days a week. But their employers testified that the deliverymen had to work only at peak delivery times: 11:30am to 2:30pm, and 5:30 to 9:30pm. They lied.

The judge found that the company had often illegally deducted pay—from $20 to $200—when deliverymen committed infractions like letting the restaurant door slam on their way out (wtf?) or failing to log in a delivery. The judge also ruled that the company had improperly made the deliverymen buy and maintain the bicycles and motorbikes they used to make deliveries, concluding that Saigon Grill should've paid for those as required tools of the trade.

Justice. This has to be pretty awesome news for these workers, who have been fighting this for a really long time. It could have been time and money that they might never have gotten back. And it's not like they were asking for a lot. They just wanted what they were owed. Now Saigon Grill has to fork over the money and deal with the bad press. Big victory props to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represented the deliverymen.

UPDATE: Here's a good follow-up op-ed piece in New York Times on this week's ruling for the Saigon Grill workers: Pork Fried Abuse. Awful headline though.

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