Restaurants, Employment Agency Ordered to Reimburse Wages of Immigrant Workers – Chicago Tribune

Two restaurants and an employment agency accused of abusing and underpaying immigrant workers who are in the country without permission have been ordered to reimburse wages and penalties in a consent decree issued by a court this week federal.

The executive order issued by Judge John Zee called for the payment of a total of $212,500 in back wages and penalties to several employees of Hibachi Sushi Buffet in Cicero, Hibachi Grill Buffet in Elk Grove Village and Jiao’s Employment Agency in Chinatown. .

Additionally, the consent decree — in which the judge oversees and monitors enforcement of the settlement — requires companies to change their employment practices. The executive order requires employers to keep records of employee hours and wages, provide training on employment discrimination laws, develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy, and provide training . Additionally, if employers provide accommodation, they must ensure that it is free of cockroaches and other vermin, includes utilities, such as heat and running water, and contains a functional bathroom, among other conditions.

Employers should also not “force” workers to pay for food as a condition of their employment or deduct the cost of food from their wages.

The terms of the degree of consent will be in effect for four to five years.

“These employment agencies and restaurants have exploited workers through inhumane working conditions and discrimination, violating both state wage laws and their civil rights,” the Illinois attorney general said. , Lisa Madigan, who filed the original complaint, in an emailed statement. “These court-enforceable settlements will ensure that restaurants and employment agencies follow the law by changing their practices, treating all employees equally and paying them what they’ve earned.”

The original lawsuit, filed in 2015 by Madigan, alleged that the owners of three Chicago Chinatown agencies, including Jiao’s, Xing Ying Employment Agency and Chinatown Agencia De Empleo, and the two restaurants took advantage of “desperately poor” immigrants from the Mexico and elsewhere. in Latin America.

Agencies, the lawsuit says, charged workers up to $220 in referral fees for accepting jobs in which they worked up to 84 hours a week without proper breaks and received less than half the state’s minimum wage. State $8.25 per hour.

The restaurants hid the workers in kitchen jobs where customers could not see them and charged them rent to live in “overcrowded and squalid conditions”, according to the lawsuit.

Hibachi Grill will pay a total of $100,000, including seven monthly installments of at least $8,679.09, for back wages to four employees and state penalties. The restaurant reportedly housed 15 employees in a three-bedroom apartment that had only one bathroom and “no furniture apart from soiled mattresses, which the employees had resorted to ending up in a nearby garage dumpster “, according to the lawsuit. Xi Chen, the restaurant owner, could not be reached for comment.

Royal Cicero Inc., which operates Hibachi Sushi Buffet, will pay $96,000 in back wages and penalties, including 16 quarterly payments of at least $6,000. In this case, seven employees will be compensated. Owner Ke Ju Zheng could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Jiao Employment Agency will pay penalties to the state totaling $16,500. The owner of Jiao’s Employment could not immediately be reached for comment.

Two employment agencies named in the original lawsuit were not included in the consent decree.

Chinatown Agencia De Empleo is no longer in operation. The other, the Xing Ying employment agency, which ran discriminatory advertisements, remains in operation but is awaiting summary judgment in which the judge makes a decision based solely on the law.

crshropshire@chicagotribune.com

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