Bay Area restaurants fined millions over wages

The state Labor Commissioner’s Office has issued citations in excess of $10 million to seven Bay Area restaurants for alleged wage theft violations, according to the Department of Industrial Relations.

The violations include allegedly failing to pay minimum wage, overtime and premiums for split shifts.

Kome Japanese Seafood and Buffet in Daly City allegedly accounts for more than $5.16 million of that sum and the violations affect 133 employees. The employees issued a statement Thursday saying the alleged violations have been ongoing for three years and demanding the restaurant’s owners comply with the state’s demands immediately.

Kome’s owners, Tiffany and David Tai Leung, Wendy Lai Ip, Jun Zheng, Gang Zhou and Bai Dong Zhang, have been ordered to pay their staff $4,381,461 in unpaid wages as well as $780,400 in civil penalties.

State investigators allege that 69 cooks, sushi chefs and dishwashers at Kome were working more than 55 hours a week but were not getting paid overtime. Kome allegedly owes them an estimated $3 million.

Hosts, servers and bussers allegedly faced similar treatment and state officials said the tips they received were illegally counted and given to the workers as part of the minimum wage.

Burma Ruby Burmese Cuisine in Palo Alto, along with the Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine chain with locations in Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Carlos, Burlingame and Belmont, was cited for $4.96 million in wage theft affecting 298 employees.

The Rangoon Ruby chain allegedly paid a fixed salary to 87 cooks at six different restaurants. Those workers typically logged more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime per week, or more, and are owed $3.8 million by their employer, according to the DIR.

There are also 211 servers, hosts, dishwashers and bussers at the chain who are owed $590,092 for alleged wage violations.

Owners Max and John Lee have been ordered to pay $4,394,118 in unpaid wages plus $780,400 in civil penalties.