Workers Sue Popular California Eatery Over Wage Violations

A popular Bay Area restaurant chain is facing down accusations of California wage violations for failure to properly pay its kitchen staff, according to media reports. The workers accuse the company, Burma Superstar, of:

  • Failing to pay minimum wage;
  • Denying workers overtime pay;
  • Refusing workers breaks;
  • Wrongly refusing workers sick leave. asianfood

The chain is famous for its tea leaf salad, which has become wildly popular in recent years. The kitchen staffers say they prided themselves on doing a good job and worked hard to make the chain successful. The fact that they were denied fair wages was an affront not just to their finances, but to the loyalty and dedication they had shown to the job.

Workers are now pursuing class action status for the lawsuit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court. Plaintiffs are asking for back wages, attorneys fees and other penalties.

As our Orange County wage and hour lawyers know,  often back-of-the-house workers are overlooked. They are often unseen and so their rights go unrecognized.

A troubling report published by the Restaurant Opportunities Center revealed that while San Francisco was one of the first cities nationally to adopt a $15 minimum wage, it is a region with the largest race-based pay gap in the country, with minorities earning on average $6.12 less than white workers. Gender-based wage disparities were also problematic, with female fine dining restaurant employees making, on average, $3.34 less per $40 tab than her male counterparts. Women tended to be dramatically under-represented in the higher-paid bartender positions. Additionally, restaurant workers routinely wrestled with:

  • Denial of raises and promotions;
  • “Rampant” tip theft:
  • Exorbitant rent rates that either require workers to live in dangerous neighborhoods or else commute long distances.

It would seem given the pervasiveness of this issue that there is a culture that seems to reward – or at the very least, overlook the damage – of these actions. Researchers opined that while a lot of these problems are systemic, if restaurants could simply do more to even the disparity between the “front of the house” workers (who more often tend to be white) and “back of the house workers” (who more often tend to be minorities), that would go a long way toward addressing these issues.

Burma Superstar first opened in San Francisco back in 1992 and is largely credited with popularizing Burmese cuisine in California. It now has additional locations in Oakland and Alameda and is looking to further expand.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of three workers who say there are approximately 100 others who are similarly situated.

Wage theft is illegal in California, where the new wage theft law went into effect Jan. 1, 2016. The measure aims to make it easier for workers to recover their unpaid wages when they prevail in a claim, which has historically been difficult, particularly with smaller firms. Companies simply shutter their doors, transfer their assets and open up under a different name. The new law makes it so that workers can collect from the new company. The National Employment Law Project reports 70 percent of low-wage workers have been victimized by at least one or more pay violation in the previous work week. That results in an average loss of $2,600 every year – per worker.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Former Employee Who is Suing Burma Superstar: ‘It Was Complete Madness’, Sept. 14, 2016, By Winston Cho, East Bay Express

More Blog Entries:

Wage Theft by Wahlburgers Chain Alleged in Employment Lawsuit, Sept. 11, 2016, Orange County Wage and Hour Lawyer Blog