- A Thai restaurant chain in LA was fined more than $1.6 million after failing to pay staff overtime.
- The DOL found 83 employees at Ocha Classic and Vim Restaurant were owed more than $800,000.
- Owner Prapai Boonyindee was personally fined $62,000 for the “willful nature” of his violations.
A Thai restaurant chain in Los Angels was ordered to hand over $1.65 million after it failed to pay staff overtime, and kept false wage records in a bid to cover it up, investigators said.
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced on Tuesday that Ocha Classic and Vim Restaurant owner Prapai Boonyindee failed to pay staff for working in excess of 40 hours a week, while creating wage records that showed none had put in extra hours.
Both actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the DOL said.
A total of 83 employees missed out on $825,775 in overtime across the company’s seven sites. Boonyindee was ordered to return this and the same amount in damages to the DOL. As many as 26 of these employees worked at the same restaurant near LA’s Korea Town.
Boonyindee, who operates six Ocha Classic chains and one Vim Restaurant outlet, was personally fined an additional $62,000 for the “willful nature” of his violations.
“Wage theft is used by unscrupulous restaurant industry employers to increase their bottom lines at the expense of some of our nation’s lowest paid workers,” said Jessica Looman of the DOL.
“We work tirelessly to recover hard-earned wages owed to workers like these, and employers who disregard workers’ rights accountable for their illegal pay practices and their attempt to mislead our investigators.”
According to a report last year by the LA Times, diners often queue up for an hour for a table at Ocha Classic. It has even spawned several copycats playing off the term”Ocha,” which means delicious in Thai, per the Times.
It has expanded since opening in 1985, but shut down three restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ocha Classic didn’t respond to a request for comment from Insider.