The Alameda County Superior Court in California entered judgment Tuesday (June 2) approving a $1.3 million class action settlement between current and former kitchen employees of the popular Bay Area Burma Superstar restaurants, and the owners and operators of the local chain.
“I’m really proud that we spoke up for ourselves and the other kitchen workers and made real changes,” said William Navarrette, one of the class representatives. “Burma Superstar kitchen workers work very hard to make the restaurants so successful,” said William Navarrete, a former dishwasher, kitchen helper, and cook at three of the restaurants.
The settlement is for a class of about 350 current and former kitchen workers at the Burma Superstar, Burma Love, and B star restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda. The workers alleged that the chain failed to pay minimum and overtime wages, split shift premiums, and sick leave, did not provide adequate meal and rest breaks, and unlawfully retaliated against employees.
The allegations fit into an unfortunately widespread pattern of restaurants taking advantage of immigrant workers with limited English skills who are unaware of their rights — or who fear retaliation if they assert their rights. Most or all of the workers the lawsuit aims to cover are immigrants who speak Spanish, Chinese, or Burmese.
The class is represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (ALC), Centro Legal de la Raza, and Legal Aid at Work.
“This case specifically alleges wage violations at Burma Superstar, but these allegations reflect a business model that Centro Legal has seen at far too many other restaurants across the Bay Area,” says Jesse Newmark, litigation director at Centro Legal de la Raza. “Especially in increasingly affluent Bay Area neighborhoods, it is unacceptable to boost profits by underpaying low-income workers.”
“We are honored to represent the lead plaintiffs, who chose to bring this case not just for themselves but for all the kitchen staff in the restaurants, across different languages and cultural backgrounds,” said Winnie Kao, Senior Counsel at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.
As the restaurant industry strives to recover, workers cannot be left behind. “We hope that this settlement will inspire better working conditions for kitchen staff in restaurants across the Bay Area, one of the food capitals of the world,” said Carole Vigne, Director of the Wage Protection Program at Legal Aid at Work. “
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the gaping holes in our country’s safety nets and widened the inequalities that exist. We hope better jobs await restaurant workers as they return to work.”
For additional information about the settlement, click here.
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