U.S. Department of Labor is suing the Chinatown Supermarket in Salt Lake
SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Labor accused Salt Lake’s Chinatown Supermarket of obstructing an investigation into the company’s pay practices. U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh and the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Chinatown Supermarket on Monday.
The Wage and Hour Division of the department started investigating the company’s pay practices on March 3, according to court documents. A WHD investigator emailed Elyas Raigne, the market’s building manager, about the investigation.
Elyas Raigne declined to comment and referred KSL to the company’s attorney, Liesel Stevens. Stevens said they do not currently have a statement regarding the lawsuit.
What the lawsuit says
The lawsuit alleges that days after WHD contacted Raigne, someone at the company held a meeting and told employees to tell investigators market employees never work more than 40 hours a week. Employees also had to sign a “Non-competition, Non-Solicitation, and Confidentiality Agreement,” according to the lawsuit.
An investigator went to the market on March 8 and “found that many of Defendant’s employees appeared anxious and reluctant to speak with him,” according to the lawsuit. The investigator also took pictures of a time clock and time cards in the supermarket.
The lawsuit said that the next day, Sandy So, a representative for the company, told a different investigator that the company did not use time cards.
The lawsuit said an investigator asked Raigne for time cards and Raigne said he did not have access to them.
“Mr. Raigne stated that he did not have access to any records because the owner had been out of the country for six months and that only he had access to the records. Mr. Raigne also was not able to produce any timekeeping records generated within the previous six months,” the lawsuit said.
Court documents said Spanish-speaking employees were removed from their normal work schedules on days investigators might show up.
“Based on statements from confidential informants, WHD has reason to believe that Defendant is taking measures to prevent its employees from communicating honestly with its investigators,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also said employees were monitored while talking with investigators.
What Chinatown Supermarket faces
In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice is seeking several injunctions to prevent the company from obstructing the investigation.
It would prevent the company from telling employees what to say, threatening or retaliating against employees, and tampering with company records.
The lawsuit would require employees to hear a statement read out loud informing them of their rights.
A spokesperson for the department said on Wednesday they are unable to comment on the investigation or current litigation.
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