Thai Taste owner Wiroj Jaruchaiykul has finished paying $43,055 to the state Department of Labor.
The penalty came after an investigation by the Department of Labor found that Jaruchaiykul had failed to pay overtime to his employees and had not properly kept time records, according to CT Department of Labor Communications Director Nancy Steffens. The department determined he owed three employees, who filed complaints with the department in November 2015, a total of $36,155 including interest. He was also assessed a civil penalty of $6,900, according to Steffens.
The employees who filed the complaint were working upward of 55 hours per week without receiving overtime pay, Steffens said. Now, the Department of Labor will distribute the payment from Jaruchaiykul to the three workers, with the largest amount to be paid to a single employee at $19,000.
Jaruchaiykul, who also owns the restaurant Rice Pot on State Street, said he paid the money in monthly installments from August to October.
He told the News he did not understand Connecticut’s labor laws, which he said are “complicated,” and was unaware he needed to keep track of all his employee’s hours or pay overtime wages after workers worked 40 hours a week. He added that the restaurant is now being run in accordance with the law.
New Haven worker right’s group Unidad Latina en Acción has been protesting Thai Taste for two years in response to what they deem Jaruchaiykul’s wage theft.
“[The workers] had given their all to make this business successful, and they didn’t receive the compensation they deserved,” ULA activist Joseph Foran said.
He added that ULA encouraged boycotts of the restaurant, demonstrating outside of Thai Taste, and said he believes it is critical to apply economic pressure on businesses that do not treat their workers fairly.
To Foran, the Department of Labor decision represents a victory for all abused workers. He said workers in New Haven often feel hurt by the incredulousness that members of the press and public display when ULA brings a case to light, and that having the Department of Labor side with the workers lends a sense of legitimacy to labor disputes.
But, Foran said, the public should listen to workers first. He added that ULA interrogates all details of a case before taking it on.
“I would encourage Yale students to believe the workers when they come out and say my wages were stolen,” he said. “We appreciate the support of students when they go to businesses that demonstrate respect for their workers.”
ULA has also organized boycotts against Atticus Bookstore Cafe, Goodfellas and Good Nature Market.
Thai Taste is located at 1151 Chapel St.