The owner of Kum Gang San, a spacious, 24-hour Korean restaurant in Flushing, Queens, has been ordered to relinquish $2.67 million in unpaid wages, reports The New York Times. The ruling is the result of a 2012 lawsuit filed by past and present employees of the restaurant, who alleged that they were significantly underpaid — and that they were forced to spend their days off on a farm outside the city, picking cabbage and chile peppers.
In the suit, plaintiffs indicated that they were regularly required to work more than 12-hour shifts, which included weekend shifts without breaks, because the restaurant was too busy. One employee was required to occasionally shovel snow from the owner’s home, the suit alleged.
“Defendants have committed the above unlawful acts willfully and intentionally,” the suit states. “They knew they were violating the law and even created false time cards for the purpose of evading apprehension.”
In his decision last Thursday, March 19, federal magistrate judge Michael H. Dolinger ordered owner Ji Sung Yoo, along with two restaurant managers, to reimburse 11 employees identified in the suit with a total of $2.67 million. The restaurant, Dolinger wrote, had knowingly paid its employees “grossly substandard wages and diverting some of their tip income, but — in violation of statutes and regulations — they made sure to deny the workers any information that would disclose the violations of their rights.”
A separate investigation, which closed in 2010, also ordered the restaurant's Manhattan location to pay $1.95 million in damages to 66 employees, which it has yet to do. Mr. Yoo’s wife opened a restaurant last year in Rockefeller Center called New York Kimchi, which is also the subject of an employee lawsuit.