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R&DE to terminate contract with Rangoon Ruby following labor law citation

KAREN KUROSAWA / The Stanford Daily

Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) will terminate its contract with on-campus cafe Rangoon Ruby, which was cited for a labor law violation in June 2018 and agreed last week to pay a $4 million settlement to approximately 300 workers to cover unpaid wages and penalties. R&DE notified the vendor of the termination in early December 2018 after learning of the citation.

The workers, represented by the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), brought the case to the California Labor Commissioner’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BoFE). While workers at the Palo Alto Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby locations will be covered in the settlement, Rangoon Ruby at Stanford was not implicated in the case, according to ALC case staff attorney Palyn Hung Mitchell. The Stanford location, located in Munger Graduate Residence Building 4, opened in January 2018, outside of the time period covered by the Labor Commissioner’s audit.

The citation detailed working conditions at the Rangoon Ruby and Burma Ruby restaurants, with reported violations including a failure to provide paid sick leave and paid overtime as required by California law. According to ALC, the restaurants called in employees to work before their scheduled shifts, without pay, in order to handle delivery orders, including many from food delivery apps.

According to R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland, R&DE and Rangoon Ruby are “working together on a transition plan” for the termination. Stanford Rangoon Ruby manager John Estandarte said he did not receive formal notification of the settlement.

“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I saw [the settlement] in the news. Here, we don’t do overtime, and we have two hours [of] break.”

In an email to The Daily, Mitchell noted that Rangoon Ruby restaurant owners have indicated they are now in compliance with applicable labor laws. “The employer has publicly stated that it has made changes to come into compliance, which means that it wasn’t before,” she said. Rangoon Ruby owner John Lee wrote in an email to The Daily that the restaurant chain is in a position to “implement any remedial action” at the Stanford location.

“[Lee] has indicated that he now is and will continue to be in compliance with all applicable labor laws, which we applaud,” Mitchell wrote. “So to the extent that he was not in compliance at this location before, he should be now.”

“We worked very hard with the Labor Commissioner’s office to resolve this matter on positive terms,” Lee wrote in his email. “We support the Labor Commissioner’s efforts to see that all restaurant workers are paid appropriately.”

While a news release from the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) states that the citation was for wage theft, Lee noted that the settlement was reached without any admission of liability.

“Many of the communications refer to ‘wage theft,’” he wrote, “but the claims were disputed.”

Mitchell said the “settlement doesn’t overturn those citations,” noting that 2018 citations included violations of minimum wage and overtime laws.

In 2014, California Labor Commissioner Julie Su launched Wage Theft is a Crime, a multilingual public awareness campaign that aims to inform workers about wage theft and how to report labor violations. Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734).

 

This article has been updated to include additional comment regarding the 2018 citation.

In a previous version of this article, The Daily incorrectly stated that Rangoon Ruby at Stanford opened in Jan. 2017. In fact, Rangoon Ruby at Stanford opened in Jan. 2018. The Daily regrets this error. 

Contact Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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