Most disputes that arise from employment discrimination suits are generally of a civil manner- in most cases an individual who has been discriminated against will make a claim seeking monetary damages. However, in certain instances, discrimination as part of a larger pattern can become a criminal offense.
This past Wednesday, New York City police arrested Simon and Michelle Nget, the owners of the popular restaurant chain Saigon Grill and charged them with nearly 200 counts, 151 of which stem from falsifying business records to cover up numerous instances of wage violations.
The investigation, led by Andrew Cuomo, had found that the Ngets had intentionally changed their business records in an attempt to undermine the allegations of workers claiming that they had been underpaid for their services, as well as other illegal payroll violations. The Ngets were also charged with tampering of evidence and submitting a false instrument in the first degree- essentially knowingly issuing a false statement in court.
The Saigon Grill has had numerous bouts with employment disputes in the past. Last October, delivery workers were awarded $4.6 million dollars in back pay and damages. They claimed that the restaurant paid them well below minimum wage, as well as made illegal deductions for such things as letting the door slam as they exited the restaurant. The workers also claimed that numerous delivery men were fired for trying to assert their legal rights as employees.
This systematic abuse of employee rights is one of the largest and high profile violations to be exposed in this city, and has led to these criminal charges being levied against the Ngets, with each of these charges carrying a maximum sentence of 4 years. The prosecution marks a win for the workers of Saigon Grill and their rights as employees, as well as sends a strong message to employers that they will not get away with such blatant violations of employees’ rights.