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Workers of Bay Area Restaurant Chain Sue Over Wage Violations

Three individuals who are current or former employees of the Burma Superstar Bay Area restaurant chain filed a lawsuit on September 8. The lawsuit -- filed in the Alameda County Superior Court -- alleges that the restaurant chain engaged in unfair practices, including not paying workers minimum wage as well as regularly not permitting breaks, overtime pay and sick leave. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of approximately 100 kitchen workers. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status. They are hoping to recover back wages, along with attorney fees and other penalties.

Challenges for Back-of-the-House Workers?

The lawsuit brings to the fore questions about whether back-of-the-house workers, which include the kitchen staff at restaurants, are treated differently from their front-of-the-house counterparts. Often, these workers are immigrants and have limited English skills, which can make them more vulnerable to the kind of wage violations alleged in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue. They say this is part of a larger trend of restaurants violating the rights of workers who speak little English and may not be aware of their rights.

Indeed, the plaintiffs allege that the majority of workers are immigrants who did not want to raise concerns about their treatment for fear of retaliation. One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs expressed the desire that the lawsuit brings more attention to the issues commonly faced by back-of-the-house workers.

Recent Report on These Issues

In June, the Restaurant Opportunities Center released a report on the Bay Area restaurant industry, entitled "Behind the Kitchen Door: The Promise of Opportunity in the San Francisco and Oakland Bay Area Restaurant Industry." The report claims that restaurants in the Bay Area have the biggest pay gap by individuals' race in all of the U.S. These issues tie into the disparate wage earning potential of front-of-the-house workers compared to back-of-the-house workers. People of color, the report found, are more likely to be employed in positions in the back of house that do not collect tips. According to the report, workers of color comprise 79% of back-of-the-house workers.

Other Claims in the Lawsuit

The lawsuit also alleges that Burma Superstar failed to comply with the state's unfair competition law and did not keep time records, pay records or make available accurate wage statements. Burma Superstar, which serves and has popularized Burmese food, has restaurant locations in Alameda, San Francisco and Oakland.

If you work in California and are seeking experienced and skilled employment law representation, California Employment Counsel, APC, can assist you. To schedule a free consultation and get advice from an employment law lawyer, contact the office online or by calling 714-462-3641 or toll free at 866-545-2415.


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