Four years after winning a lawsuit demanding $1.5 million in back wages and damages from the restaurant that employed them, none of the plaintiffs have seen any of the money. “Countless immigrants in the restaurant industry work long hours for illegal wages. And even when they get a court of law to rule in their favor, they very rarely see a penny of the money that was taken from them.” The owner shut down his restaurants and “disappeared like a ghost.”
“Cao’s story is both strange and ordinary… At every job, Cao worked 11 or 12 hours a day, six days a week. He was paid flat wages that never added up to more than $1,300 a month, always in cash, and with no such thing as overtime pay… Wage theft is an everyday occurrence in American restaurants, especially for workers like Cao. The Restaurant Opportunity Center’s study of the industry in eight major cities across the country found that 46% of workers reported overtime violations, one of the most common ways of skirting wage laws. As for New York City, the National Employment Law Project estimated in 2008 that there are overtime violations in 75% of the city’s restaurants.”
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