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Thai restaurant to pay back wages

April 11, 2011 |  4:32 pm

A Thai restaurant in the Westchester area has agreed to pay $162,201 in back wages to employees who were paid as little as $45 for working up to 12 hours per day, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The agreement to extend back pay to 35 of its workers came after an investigation by the Labor Department, which found that Ayara Thai Cuisine near Los Angeles International Airport had violated laws governing minimum wages, overtime and record-keeping, the agency said.

Kimchi Bui, director of the Los Angeles office of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, said underpaying workers was a big problem in the restaurant industry in Los Angeles. She called the practice "unacceptable."

"Oftentimes they’re paid during the day or by tips only for all hours worked," Bui said. "We are determined to make sure that they and other vulnerable employees are paid proper wages.”

Ayara Thai, she said, did not keep proper records of employees' hours and did not always pay overtime when it was due. The agency said the company agreed to fully comply with labor regulations from now on. Under California law, restaurant workers must be paid at least $8 an hour, along with time and a half for overtime.

-- Sharon Bernstein

On Twitter @sharonbernstein