monopoly_money.jpgA San Francisco restaurant is paying 14 employees more than $230,000 in back pay after settling a series of citations issued by the California Labor Commissioner’s office, an attorney for the commissioner’s office said today.

An investigation showed that Big Lantern restaurant, a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District, had failed to pay overtime for employees that worked more than eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week, attorney David Balter said.

Workers in California working more than eight hours in a day are required to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for the first four hours over eight, and double time for any hours over 12.

Employers also must pay any employee that works more than 40 hours in a week 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours over 40 worked.

In addition, some salaried employees at Big Lantern did not receive minimum wage after working overtime, resulting in further citations, Balter said.

Balter said the violations affected most of the employees at the restaurant, including kitchen staff and delivery drivers, who were some of the last employees that investigators discovered weren’t being adequately paid.

A hearing was scheduled on the citations for several weeks ago, but after meeting with the restaurant owners, attorneys were able to reach a resolution where the citations were paid.

In total, $230,535 was paid to employees, with workers receiving settlements between $457 and $38,880 each. An additional $5,300 was paid in penalties.

A manager for the restaurant declined to comment on the settlement.

But Balter said that underpaid employees may be a much larger problem in the San Francisco restaurant industry.

A similar case a few weeks ago resulted in a settlement for employees of the Vietnamese restaurant Pho Clement, Balter said, and there was another similar settlement at Blue Plate on Mission Street.

“In the restaurant industry these types of problems are not few and far between. We hope that through our aggressive enforcement efforts we’ll provide a level playing field,” Balter said.

He said that not only is underpaying employees unfair to workers, but it gives employers that break the law a competitive advantage over law-abiding establishments.

“It’s a major industry in this town and it’s important that the law be enforced,” he said.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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