Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger ordered popular Korean restaurant, Kum Gang San, to pay nearly $2.7 million in back wages and damages to 11 restaurant workers. Kum Gang San is owned by Ji Sung Yoo and is a twenty-four hour restaurant with locations in Manhattan and Queens. The court found that the restaurant exploited immigrant workers for many years and forced them to work long hours without paying them overtime pay or minimum wage and also diverted some of their tip income. The workers claim they were also forced to perform work for Yoo outside of the restaurant, such as picking vegetables at a farm and shoveling snow from Yoo’s driveway. The company has been found in violation of wage and hour and child labor laws in the past. In fact, the state ordered the restaurant to pay $1.95 million in damages for wages owed to 66 employees back in 2010, which still remains unpaid.
Unfortunately, wage theft is a frequent occurrence that affects the restaurant industry, particularly restaurants that employ immigrant workers. This case serves as an example of an ethnic restaurant that has been found to exploit immigrant workers.