January 17, 2019
Immigrant Workers Win $4 Million for Injustices at Bay Area Burmese Restaurant Chain Rangoon Ruby
San Francisco, CA – Today immigrant workers at the popular Burmese restaurant chain Rangoon Ruby announced a $4 million settlement for approximately 300 affected workers in a case before the California Labor Commissioner. The settlement amount covers the full value of unpaid wages owed to the workers, plus penalties.
Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice – ALC) represented the workers who brought the case to the California Labor Commissioner’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BoFE). The chain includes Rangoon Ruby locations in Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Carlos, Burlingame, and Belmont, as well as Burma Ruby Burmese Cuisine in Palo Alto.
Rangoon Ruby kitchen workers first approached Advancing Justice – ALC about working conditions at the restaurants in September 2017. They reported working long hours at the beck and call of the employer, who regularly summoned them to work well before their scheduled shifts, without overtime pay, to handle delivery orders. Many of the orders came from food delivery apps popular in the Bay Area.
“We were tired and frustrated because we were working extra hours, without any additional pay,” said Ah Zhang, one of the worker leaders who first sought help from Advancing Justice – ALC. “When we complained, the boss said we were on call 24 hours and that our extra hours were covered by our salary.” Under state law, however, a fixed salary does not apply to overtime owed.
“One time I was hurting and needed to see the doctor. The boss wouldn’t let me take any time off to get treatment.” said Sai Leng, a longtime Burma Ruby worker. “When I took the time off anyway, I wasn’t paid and I had to make up the time I missed.” This was in violation of state law, which requires employers to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
Advancing Justice – ALC referred the case to BoFE and represented workers through the BoFE process. BoFE investigated the case and issued citations against the restaurant and its owner for unpaid minimum wages, overtime, paid sick leave, inaccurate pay statements, and related penalties. As the citation hearing was starting, the employer decided to settle the case rather than have BoFE present its case.
“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,” said Palyn Hung Mitchell, Staff Attorney at Advancing Justice – ALC. “It was even harder for some of the workers who relied on the employer not just for work but for housing as well. We hope other immigrant workers who are facing violations in their own workplaces will see the Rangoon Ruby workers and feel inspired to come forward.”
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.