As Minimum Wage Increases in San Francisco, Wage Theft Persists

As Minimum Wage Increases in San Francisco, Wage Theft Persists

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group represents low-wage workers in matters to recover unpaid wages and combat wage theft.  We have represented workers at popular Bay Area restaurants who alleged that they were paid less than $4.00 per hour.  While state and local government have worked to improve labor conditions and increase the minimum wage in recent years, they continue to face resistance from employers who underpay workers and attempt to evade their responsibilities under the law.

On July 1, 2018, San Francisco increased its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, a $1.00 increase that represented the last step in a four-year process to increase the city’s minimum wage.  Further increases in the minimum wage will be dictated by a metric of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Price Index.

Although San Francisco has been preparing for the $15.00 minimum wage for the last four years, some employers have failed to comply with the required gradual increases, and others have underpaid workers in other ways in order to “offset” the minimum wage increases.

On June 7, 2018, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced that it had issued cited Kome Japanese Seafood & Buffet and the Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine chain for more than $10 million in wage violations and penalties.  The violations cited included failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, and split shift premiums.  Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and the Chinese Progressive Association represented many of the affected employees.

On July 2, 2018, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Labor Commissioner had fined the award-winning San Francisco restaurant La Taqueria approximately $600,000 for labor violations, penalties, and other amounts owed to over 30 employees.  The workers who filed claims against La Taqueria were represented by Young Workers United and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.

Restaurant owners sometimes pay workers at hourly rates far below the minimum wage on the rationale that the servers earn additional compensation from tips left by customers.  However, the state of California requires restaurants to pay employees the full minimum wage for every hour worked in addition to tips earned.

Low-wage immigrant workers and people of color are particularly at risk of being subjected to wage theft.  Immigrant workers in service industries, such as restaurant, janitorial, domestic services, agriculture, and manufacturing are among the most exploited workers in the Bay Area labor market.

Employees may be unaware that they have the right to fair wages even if they are undocumented.  The law protects the right to full payment of wages regardless of immigration status.  Further, an employer’s failure to keep adequate pay and time records is itself a violation of the law and is not a bar to an employee’s claims of underpayment.

Employees who believe they have not received the full amount owed for their work may set up a free consultation with Minami Tamaki by contacting us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.

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