Posh Beverly Hills Sushi Restaurant Urasawa Fined for Wage Theft

08/21/2013 // Keller Grover LLP // Eric Grover // (press release)

For a Beverly Hills restaurant where dinner for two can cost more than $1,000, one would think that failing to pay their employees the wages they are entitled to would be unheard of. But according to a lawsuit filed by former employees of Urasawa, it is alleged that they were routinely denied overtime pay, rest breaks and in one case, once forced to urinate in a sink used to clean mops, reports Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer Eric Grover.

Urasawa, a posh, upscale sushi restaurant nestled above Rodeo Drive, has a hidden secret behind the kitchen doors, according to former employees and an investigation by the California Labor Department.

Hiroyuki Urasawa, the owner of the renowned sushi restaurant, has been accused of withholding tens of thousands of dollars in wages and overtime pay from his employees. One plaintiff also claimed that he was forced to urinate in a sink used to clean the restaurant’s mops, because he was told that the men’s bathroom was not to be used by employees during business hours.

“It was always about the customers, making sure that they were happy,” said Heriberto Zamora, 26, to the New York Times. Zamora was a former employee who worked at Urasawa for over five years and has filed a civil suit for back pay. “None of the employees were treated very well. We knew people were paying a lot to eat there, but for us it was no different.”

Urasawa has appealed the state’s ruling of last month, which found the restaurant had failed to pay overtime wages and provide rest breaks.

This isn’t the first high-end restaurant to come under scrutiny for wage and hour employment violations. Last year several of Mario Batali’s New York restaurants reached a $1.5 million settlement with a 31 current and former employees who sued the restaurant for wages, tips and overtime, as well as discrimination and retaliation.

Wage violations are also a rampant problem in Los Angeles. A 2009 study by the Labor Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, revealed that an average of $26 million worth of wage violations occurs every week in Los Angeles.

“This is yet another example that wage and hour employment violations are not exclusive to businesses that are struggling and can occur in the most profitable of high-end businesses,” says Los Angeles employment lawyer Eric Grover. “Employers often keep their eyes on the profit instead of properly compensating their employees, believing that they can get around the system without getting caught in the name of increasing revenues. In some cases an employer may be unwittingly misclassifying your position and refusing to pay overtime or provide rest breaks. In other cases, it could strictly be a matter of greed. In either case contacting an employment lawyer for legal advice should be the first step toward ensuring that you and your coworkers are paid what you are due.”

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