Four former employees have sued the New York City location of Mission Chinese, the innovative San Francisco restaurant, for unpaid wages and for being “a hotbed of racial discrimination.” The lawsuit also alleges that Mission Chinese cheated its servers out of wages and overtime.
According to the
lawsuit, Mission Chinese’s Director of Operations was informed of pervasive
race discrimination between employees at the restaurant, including kitchen
workers referring to a Latino runner as a “wetback” and burning the arm of the
only black kitchen employee with a spoon dipped in hot oil. The workers’ attorneys allege that management
promised to look into and correct the situation, but instead eventually
terminated the kitchen’s one black employee for pretextual reasons.
The lawsuit also alleges that servers were required to spend more than 20% of their shifts performing sidework or non-tipped work, such as setting up, rolling napkins and polishing silverware, in violation of the 80/20 rule. For example, waiters scheduled to work a lunch-only shift had to arrive at 11:00 a.m., performing sidework for at least an hour before the restaurant opened at noon. As the lunch-only shift lasted until about 3:00 p.m., the servers spent far more than 20% of their shifts performing non-tipped work. The lawsuit also claims that the restaurant automatically deducted 30 minutes from the servers’ timecards for meal breaks, despite the fact that the servers rarely took meal breaks lasting longer than a few minutes.
In an Eater NY article about the lawsuit, the former employees say the fact that the restaurant was “very, very often a toxic environment” was “jarring” considering the restaurant’s reputation as a progressive, hip, and queer utopia. The workers are seeking an award of unspecified damages, to include back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.