ALAMEDA -- The owner of a Park Street restaurant who faces more than $480,000 in fines after state officials accused him of underpaying employees and other workplace violations said he will challenge the allegations in court.
"No one has been abused in this restaurant," Norong Undomrak, co-owner of Toomie's Thai Cuisine, said Wednesday. "We have treated our employees fairly. Everyone is happy."
The state Labor Commissioner and the Employment Development Department began investigating the business at 1433 Park St. after complaints were filed about working conditions.
Cooks, dishwashers, servers and kitchen helpers routinely worked 10.5 hours each day for up to seven days a week and were not paid minimum wage or the one-and-a-half rate of pay for overtime, state officials said.
The owners also paid in cash, providing $45 per day for servers and between $75 and $120 for kitchen staff, and kept no time records until Sept. 1 this year, according to the investigation. The owners also allegedly did not provide workers with itemized wage statements.
The owners are also accused of violating the "split-shift" premium, the state law which kicks in when an employee works two or more shifts during a workday and has an unpaid break of more than an hour.
Undomrak said he may have made mistakes in record-keeping and other paperwork regarding his employees, but denied any willful wrong-doing.
"How can they say we have paid minimum wage?" he said. "Even they say our kitchen staff was getting paid up to $120 each day. Is that minimum wage?"
Undomrak and co-owner Kaoduan Undomrak are individually and jointly responsible for $108,200 in civil penalties and $373,613 owed to 13 employees as a result of unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay, as well as for violations of rest period and split-shift premium laws, state officials said.
"Our goal is to ensure a just day's pay for a hard day's work in every workplace in California," Labor Commissioner Janet Su said in a statement Oct. 9, when the investigation results were made public. "We want to create a culture of compliance where employers profit by playing the rules and employers who have concluded that it is cheaper to break the law, that the chances of getting caught are slim, and the costs even if you do get caught are minimal, know that those days are over."
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.