Former dishwasher and line cook at Burma Superstar, William Navarette, who is one of the lead plaintiffs in a class action suit against the local chain that was filed last week, has revealed some further details to the East Bay Express about the grievances that he and about 100 other employees are seeking to settle with the suit.
In addition to not being allowed breaks or being given paid sick leave, Navarette alleges something that sounds like straight-up wage theft:
In one alleged violation, Navarette said Burma Superstar owner Desmond Tan instituted a policy whereby employees would not receive certain weekly paychecks. Instead, these checks would become a deposit, and employees would only get them back when they stopped working for the restaurant.
And apparently no employee who had this happen to them ever saw one of these "deposits" returned to them.
Also, he says, that working in the kitchen was especially brutal during his time there. "Once you walk into that kitchen, you’re not going to stop until you get to leave for the night," he tells the paper. "It was complete madness."
The suit alleges that the illegal wage practices and employee treatment was the same across the board at all five locations, including three Burma Superstars in SF and the East Bay, B Star in the Richmond, and the Mission's Burma Love. According to the filing, Tan classified many employees as salaried, rather than hourly wage workers, thereby skirting state laws governing overtime. In total, the restaurant is accused of over fourteen wage violations going back at least four years.
So far, the restaurant and its owner have declined to comment on the suit.
The suit was filed by attorneys with the Asian Law Caucus, Legal Aid Society, and Centro Legal de la Raza, and it follows on similar cases won or settled in employees' favor, many of whom speak limited English, at Yank Sing and Udupi Palace.
Update: KRON 4 has a statement from the attorneys for the Burma Superstar ownership in response to the suit, saying, "The owners value their team as an extension of their family, and strive to treat everyone with the utmost respect, providing good wages and excellent benefits well beyond what is required by federal, state and city laws."
SFist received an additional statement from the owners through a PR rep which says "For six years now [the owners] have provided health care to employees. And many of Burma Superstar's employees have been with the company since the opening of the restaurants. This frivolous lawsuit is based on false allegations. Burma Superstar will be totally exonerated and will prevail in court."