Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby settle labor complaint by paying workers $4 million

Burma Ruby on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Photo from Google Streetview
Burma Ruby on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Photo from Google Streetview

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby — a restaurant chain with locations in Palo Alto, Stanford, San Carlos, Belmont and Burlingame — will have to pay 300 workers $4 million in a settlement over alleged labor law violations.

The settlement was announced Thursday (Jan. 17), seven months after Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su fined the chain’s owners, Max and John Lee, $4.96 million for allegedly failing to pay employees minimum wage, overtime and extra pay for split shifts, when employees are scheduled for multiple work periods on a single day with an unpaid break in between.

The Lees agreed to pay $4 million instead of having the case move forward. John Lee told the Post that by paying the settlement, they’re not admitting liability.

“We regret the tenor of many of the communications about the settlement. Many of the communications refer to ‘wage theft.’ But the claims were disputed,” John Lee said. “We worked very hard with the labor commissioner’s office to resolve this matter on positive terms. We support the labor commissioner’s efforts to see that all restaurant workers are paid appropriately.”

Kitchen workers at Rangoon Ruby approached the nonprofit, San Francisco-based law firm Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus about working conditions at the restaurants in September 2017.

“One time I was hurting and needed to see the doctor. The boss wouldn’t let me take any time off to get treatment,” Burma Ruby worker Sai Leng said in a statement. “When I took the time off anyway, I wasn’t paid and I had to make up the time I missed.”Advancing Justice said this was in violation of state law, which requires employers to offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

The workers also said their employer would call them in before their scheduled shifts without overtime pay to handle delivery orders, many of which came from food delivery apps.

“We were tired and frustrated because we were working extra hours without any additional pay,” employee Ah Zhang said in a statement. “When we complained, the boss said we were on call 24 hours and that our extra hours were covered by our salary.”

4 Comments

  1. I don’t understand why these workers, if they were treated so horribly, didn’t just quit and find other jobs. Restaurants are hiring, there desperate for people. Unemployment is at a record low.

    • Many might have left without complaining which we wouldn’t know. If you were mistreated at work and know that the mistreatment would continue for others even after you quit wouldn’t you seek justice? Will you advice your daughter to quit the job silently if she was wronged?

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