Providence Journal: A sampling of recent wage-theft cases in R.I.

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

From the Providence Journal:

by Karen Lee Ziner

Recent wage-theft cases in Rhode Island have involved food workers, construction workers and garbage collectors. Among them:

Gourmet Heaven

Protesters targeted the popular Providence deli and take-out restaurant owned by Chung Cho at its downtown Providence store on Weybosset Street last December. A Gourmet Heaven store on College Hill had closed abruptly two weeks before.

Workers who were among the dozens of demonstrators alleged they had not been paid overtime or minimum wage. In claims filed with the Rhode Island Department of Labor against Cho, some alleged "physical abuse by lower-level management," and said they'd been injured on the job. Two other protests followed, including one outside Cho's Connecticut home.

The Rhode Island Center for Justice subsequently filed a federal court lawsuit against Cho on behalf of three former Gourmet Heaven employees in February; five others subsequently joined the case. They are seeking back wages and more than $140,000 for alleged violations of state and federal wage laws.

The suit alleges Cho violated state minimum wage law — in some cases paying $360 to $400 for as many as 84 hours of work per week — and violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by denying overtime wages.

In court documents, Cho denies the workers' claims. Barring a settlement, the case is set to go to trial in 2016.

The lawsuit notes Cho's legal troubles in Connecticut, which overlapped the Rhode Island workers' wage dispute. After Cho violated the terms of a settlement agreement requiring him to pay $150,000 in back wages to employees at his two New Haven stores, a judge spared him criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment, but he must pay the back wages by year's end.

Cilantro Mexican Grill

The Rhode Island restaurant chain was ordered to pay $100,417 in back wages and damages to 32 restaurant workers in May after federal investigators found that it violated federal wage and hour laws by failing to pay overtime.

The company was also ordered to pay a civil penalty of $2,325 for allowing three minors to use their own cars to deliver food.

The case marked the first in an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor restaurant enforcement initiative here and in Connecticut.

Read the full article from the Providence Journal.