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Epicurean settles one employee lawsuit
On Sept. 13, judges were supposed to reach an agreement on one of the three lawsuits filed against Epicurean and Co. by workers due to unpaid overtime wages. The hearing, which dealt with one of the complaints filed in 2010, was postponed until further notice.
However, two weeks ago, a settlement was reached with regards to the 2012 lawsuit involving plaintiffs Oscar Martnez, Bonifacio Ayala, and Carmen Mejia.
On Sept. 12, Vigor Restaurant, the owner of Epicurean, filed an Offer of Judgment to former employees Martinez and Ayala. This judgment was entered in an amount totaling $14,250, inclusive of liquidated damages and unpaid wages.
Liquidated damages, in contrast with punitive damages, are fixed by statute. The Fair Labor Standards Act specifies that employees are entitled to an amount of liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wages.
“Although the plaintiffs’ calculations show that they were entitled to more than Epicurean offered, our clients felt that the amount offered and accepted was a fair compromise, given the risks inherent in any litigation,” wrote Darin Dalmat, one of the workers’ attorneys, in an email to the Voice.
Former employees Martinez and Ayala received a compensation of $8,900 and $5,350 respectively. However, the offer does not cover the claims of the third worker, Mejia.
“The parties are currently engaged in settlement discussions regarding her claims, so I cannot comment on those discussions at this time,” wrote Dalmat.
In spite of this progress, the workers will not receive their compensations right away.
“The Court will have an opportunity to review the fairness and reasonableness of this offer and acceptance before the claims of those two workers are fully resolved,” explained Dalmat.
Offering a judgment implies that Epicurean and Co. accepts the guilt of having violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the FLSA, any employee working for more than 40 hours a week should be paid “one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.”
Dalmat also addressed allegations from one of Martinez’s coworkers reported in the Voice on Sept. 13. At that time, Epicurean employee Elizabeth Reyes said she had “seen [Martinez] come into work drunk on numerous occasions.”
Dalmat said management never brought up the allegations during litigation, and that they would have been immaterial to the case anyway.
“The management is entitled to say ‘Hey you are too drunk to work, go home’. They operate the discipline of employees,” he said.
Kimberly Jandrain, attorney for Epicurean manager Chang Wook Chon, declined to comment on the case. In a previous interview with the Voice, Jandrain said that “At least one, and possibly more of the employees, did not work any overtime hours.”
Settlements on the other two cases are still under discussion. “We hope that it [the hearing] will be in October and if not October early November,” Dalmat said.