DOL Lawsuit Seeks $600K in Back Wages for Restaurant Workers

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against the owners of two restaurants in Ames, Iowa, alleging they failed to pay workers the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as additional payments for overtime as required by law.

The suit lists nearly $600,000 in damages for the wages it says are owed to the workers at both Mongolian Buffet and the now-defunct King Buffet. Both restaurants were owned by Li Ying Li and Jian Yum Zheng, a husband and wife who are both named in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, which was filed in late April, both servers and kitchen employees at the two restaurants were expected to work 72 hours per week. Some of the employees received fixed weekly wages of $450, which works out to $6.25 per hour.
The U.S. Department of labor regulators say $597,000 is owed to nearly 40 workers for violations that occurred during a two-year period from March 2012 to March 2014.

Wage violations are some of the most common labor violations in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Labor sets wage standards under its Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In general, employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently established at $7.25 (state and local jurisdictions may set higher minimums); and overtime (more than 40 hours per week) must be paid to all non-exempt employees at a rate of at least one-and-a-half times the normal rate of pay. You can read more about the FLSA at the U.S. Department of Labor website here.

Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP has successfully represented restaurant workers and service workers in diverse industries in many nationally prominent wage and hour cases. Call us today at 1 (212) 688-5640, or email us at, to schedule a free and totally confidential strategic intake evaluation about your situation.

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