Your Fave Is Problematic: Restaurant Wage Theft Edition
Shaanxi Gourmet (really)
Mainstream American society views dining out as entertainment, a lighthearted evening out that can be less expensive than, say, going to the theater. Unfortunately, there is sometimes unethical behavior occurring behind the scenes.
Journalist Karen Foshay (with a huge assist from fellow journalist Miguel Contreras) has put together a vast and important series about the bad side of the Los Angeles–area restaurant industry for KCRW. So far the series has covered wage theft and worker retaliation, with a list that includes the restaurants that apparently owe the most unpaid wages to employees, both current and former. There are a number of no-name slop houses on the list, but, to every food nerd's chagrin, some cult favorites are on the list, too.
Shaanxi Gourmet has a $94,170 judgment against it. The former Nem Nuong Ninh Restaurant apparently owes $231,272 in wages. The restaurant now is called Summer Rolls; according to the report, restaurants often turn themselves into different entities to avoid paying wages and fines.
Some restaurants had claims filed against them but did end up paying out the judgment: Trois Mec owed $910 in tips and fees but paid up. Other restaurants may have settled with complainants outside of court.
Some of these disagreements escalate into the physical realm. Carousel, specifically the Glendale location, is featured in a story of physical intimidation; it is alleged that the restaurant sent men to a former employee's house to scare him out of suing for stolen wages.
The series is going to get more upsetting over the week: Sexual assault and human trafficking will be reported on this Thursday and Friday. It's not what consumers want to talk about when they talk about restaurants, but it is so important to know about.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.