For Immediate Release - October 11, 2011

Raynham and Somerset Chinese Restaurants Cited for More Than $180,000 in Restitution and Penalties for Minimum Wage, Child Labor and Retaliation Violations

BOSTON – The owners of two Chinese food restaurants with locations in Raynham and Somerset have been ordered to pay more than $52,000 in restitution and more than $129,000 in penalties for intentional violations of the Massachusetts Minimum Wage, Child Labor and Anti-Retaliation Laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today. 

Yuan Huan, Inc., doing business as Grand China Buffet, formerly located in Raynham, corporate president Xue Ying You, of Fall River, and manager Casidy Lu, age 29 of Fall River, have all been cited for failing to pay the minimum wage, willful failure to pay timely wages, willful failure to provide pay stubs, willful retaliation against an employee for making a wage complaint, willful failure to furnish employment records to the Attorney General and permitting a child to work beyond permissible work hours and in excess of maximum work hours.

Also cited by the Attorney General’s Office are Prosperity Enterprises, Inc., doing business as New York Chinese Buffett, located in Somerset, its corporate president Zhi Hao Zhang, also known as Zi Qian Zhang, age 44 of Swansea, treasurer Ai Yi Lu, and manager Ming Kuai Lu, also known as Steven Lu, age 30 of Fall River.  They were cited for: willful failure to pay the minimum wage, willful failure to pay timely wages, willful failure to provide pay stubs, willful retaliation against an employee for making a wage complaint and willful failure to furnish employment records to the Attorney General.

In August of 2010, the AG’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation after the matter was initially referred by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), Greater Boston Legal Services, and Justice at Work.

Investigators discovered that the restaurants’ kitchen workers worked more than 70 hours a week, six days per week and, at far less than the Massachusetts Minimum Wage of $8 an hour, if they were paid at all. Investigators discovered that one of the employees, a minor of 16 years-old, received no compensation for her 9 months of work while working the same long days and hours.  Employees also reported to the AG’s office that they were routinely denied meal breaks.

In addition to the wage and hours violations, the Fair Labor Division found that employees were paid approximately one time per month in cash and had to continuously ask to be paid.  Others suffered retaliation for exercising their right to be paid properly. One employee, in particular, was terminated for not signing an unlawful waiver form, which sought to authorize the employer to take more than $1,000 worth of meal, lodging and transportation deductions per month, when the employee was making almost half the minimum wage rate.  Another employee was fired when he brought his concerns to his employer about not being paid the minimum wage.

Investigators also found that many of the employees were housed in unsuitable conditions in a rooming house owned by the former owner of Grand China Buffet and New York Chinese Buffet in Taunton.  At one point, four employees shared one bedroom and approximately 13 people shared the house. The employees were not free to come and go as they pleased from the rooming house, but rather dependent on a manager to allow them in. A number of the restaurants’ employees had been hired upon being transported to the state and provided a phone number to call.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Kate J. Fitzpatrick, of AG Coakley’s Fair Labor Division with assistance from Fair Labor investigative staff and assistance from the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, including the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

The Governor’s Task Force was formed to reduce fraudulent employment practices in the state, and to increase fair business competition by leveling the playing field for those companies which follow the law.  The Task Force includes, among other agencies, the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), Department of Labor/EOLWD, Division of Unemployment Assistance/EOLWD, the Department of Industrial Accidents/EOLWD, the Division of Occupational Safety/EOLWD, the Executive Office of Administration and Finance’s (ANF) Department of Revenue/ANF, and the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).

Workers who believe their workplace rights have been violated are strongly urged to call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or the Joint Task Force hotline toll-free at 1-(877) 96-LABOR (877-965-2267).  All reporting will remain anonymous.  More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website: www.massworkrights.com.  Additional information about the Joint Task Force’s efforts to combat workplace fraud can be found at www.mass.gov/dol/labortaskforce

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