Urasawa, a sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills and one of America’s most expensive restaurants, is facing a civil lawsuit for underpaying employees. Last month, chef Hiroyuki Urasawa, the owner of the restaurant, appealed the state’s $55,000 fine for not giving overtime payment and breaks to four employees, according to The New York Times. Heriberto Zamora, one of the employees, also filed a civil suit against Urasawa over wage violations.
Word spread in March about Urasawa’s worker exploitation and wage violations, stemming from Zamora’s firinglast June, after he asked to go home nine hours into his shift because he had the flu. Zamora, an immigrant from Mexico, asked Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) for help after he was fired and didn’t receive his last paycheck, according to KIWA’s press release. KIWA subsequently held a rally against wage theft and Urasawa’s illegal labor practices on March 14th, and also created an online petition urging the restaurant to pay Zamora and follow labor laws.
Zamora also filed a complaint to the State of California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the state then fined Urasawa for wage violations against employees. The state discovered that the staff works “10.5 hours each day without overtime pay, rest breaks or meal period breaks” and that the restaurant didn’t issue itemized wage statements citing hours work and rate of pay. “Three workers are due $38,585 in unpaid wages such as overtime and meal or rest breaks, while an $18,500 penalty was issued for failure to provide wage deduction statements and $8,700 penalty for failure to pay overtime and to provide rest and meal periods,” according to the California Labor Commissioner’s release. Zamora used to work almost sixty hours a week for $11.50 per hour, The New York Times reported.
Kevin Kish, the Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Director and Zamora’s lawyer, said that such wage violations are commonplace. “The only thing that is remarkable about this case is that people might expect paying so much means that workers are getting paid fairly,” Kish told The New York Times.
Even though Urasawa has charged $1,111 for a meal, it looks like employees are not benefiting from the restaurant’s success.