January 9, 2019
Immigrant Workers Win $2.1 Million for Labor Violations at Bay Area Malaysian Restaurant Chain Mango Garden
San Francisco, CA – Immigrant workers at Mango Garden, a former chain of Malaysian restaurants with locations in Fremont, San Mateo, and San Jose, won $2.1 million dollars in unpaid wages owed to 56 affected workers in a case before the California State Labor Commissioner’s Office. The workers who brought the case to the Labor Commissioner’s Office and who testified at the hearing were represented by Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice – ALC). The Alameda County District Attorney’s office also filed criminal charges against two of the restaurant’s owners for wage theft and fraud. Approximately $1.7 million in assets secured as part of the criminal case are being allocated to pay part of the $2.1 million owed.
“My co-workers and I decided to come forward and file claims against the restaurant because we wanted the violations to stop,” said Woei Jian Yong, one of the former Mango Garden workers represented by Advancing Justice – ALC. “Even when we were afraid about what might happen if we spoke out, we knew that something had to be done or nothing would ever change. We just wanted the employer to treat us fairly and to be properly paid for the work we did.”
Yong and a group of Mango Garden workers approached Advancing Justice – ALC in 2015 about the working conditions at the restaurants. They reported working 10 to 16 hour work days, 6 days a week, without meal or rest breaks for less than the minimum wage, no overtime, and without the premium required for working split shifts. Advancing Justice – ALC filed claims for the workers with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and referred the case to the Labor Commissioner’s Bureau of Field Enforcement unit (BoFE), who issued citations against the restaurant and its individual owners after investigation. After almost three weeks of trial, the hearing officer upheld the citations against the employer for approximately $2.1 million. The employer chose not to appeal the decision.
“I hope other immigrant workers who are being abused or taken advantage of will see that they don’t have to continue to accept that kind of treatment,” said Kevin Xu, another former Mango Garden worker represented by Advancing Justice – ALC. “We have legal rights. In the US, employers can’t just do whatever they want. They have to follow the law. There are also community groups and government agencies who can help.”
“We were inspired by the workers who came forward to assert their rights and make this win possible,” said Winnie Kao, Litigation Director at Advancing Justice – ALC and one of the attorneys for the workers. “They won back wages owed not just for themselves, but for all the affected workers at the restaurant. Even under normal circumstances, it’s very hard for low-wage workers to make ends meet in the Bay Area, much less when they’re being exploited. Given the high value placed on food and dining in the Bay Area, we all have a responsibility to ensure that those who feed and serve us are treated with dignity and fairness.”
Christina So, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-848-7728
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, Advancing Justice – ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.