Chan Dara, perhaps the first Asian restaurant in L.A. to capitalize on the hot-chicks-and-chopsticks marketing milieu, is being sued by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The feds say that the Thai-fusion eatery, known for its "half-dressed waitresses" and pervy old white-guy customers, was stiffing the beautiful hands that feed it by failing to pay overtime even when its employees worked double shifts.
Federal officials say the restaurants maintained two sets of books, including ones that did not record extra hours worked, for as many as 31 employees.
The Department of Labor states:
Investigators from the Wage and Hour Division's Los Angeles District Office identified a total of $104,807 in overtime back wages due, including $56,910 owed to 13 employees of the Chan Dara restaurant at 11940 Pico Blvd. and $47,897 owed to 15 employees of the Chan Dara restaurant at 310 N. Larchmont Blvd. The investigators found that between September 2009 and September 2011, the restaurants paid employees "straight time" for all hours worked and did not pay a premium rate for hours worked in excess of 40 per week as required by the FLSA. Employees often worked 10-16 hours a day in double shifts.
The restaurants in Larchmont Village and West Los Angeles are known to open at lunch and close around 10:30 p.m..
Kimchi Bui, district director for the department's wage and hour division in L.A., told the Weekly that the employees involved in the investigation don't just include the good-looking waitresses:
Basically it's not just the wait staff. It's all the employees employed in the establishments -- cooks, wait staff. They got straight time for all the hours worked, and they were not paid proper overtime.
She noted that they would be due time and a half minimum wage (which is $7.25 an hour in California) for any work after eight hours.
The suit seeks to recover the $104,807 it says employees were stiffed. Additionally the department has levied a $10,000 fine on the restaurant.
Bui said that additional, criminal action was possible but that it would be up to the court.
Interestingly, Chan Dara appears to be one of the more visible and mainstream Thai restaurants in L.A.
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Bui tells us:
We're hoping that this case will definitely impact the rest of the restaurant industry. Our hope is that other businesses will take proactive action to start complying with the law and pay workers correctly.
We left a message with a Chan Dara manager to give the business a chance to respond. Irony? The manager was not due to arrive until the dinner shift, we were told.