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Urasawa fined for labor violations

boogiebaby Mar 14, 2013 11:23 PM

Interesting...

http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2013/03/14/b...

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  1. Porthos RE: boogiebaby Mar 14, 2013 11:28 PM

    Wow. Heard a similar thing about Jinya a few months back but never saw it in print.

    1. j
      jaykayen RE: boogiebaby Mar 14, 2013 11:49 PM

      Jeez, you would think they could afford to not break labor laws.

      14 Replies
      1. re: jaykayen
        j
        Johnny L RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 01:02 AM

        It's more of a industry practice especially with Asians where there is no overtime, its called shift pay which was standard in this industry for many years until labor departments started cracking down.

        I'm not surprised it was happening, I'm just curious what he did to anger a former employee.

        1. re: Johnny L
          c
          chewbacca RE: Johnny L Mar 15, 2013 08:29 AM

          He didn't pay him. The guy was sick and left after 11 hour shift, but then because he left early he was fired but never given his last paycheck! The LA times article on this has more info. The entire restaurant employs 9 people. This is shocking to me. How can one know if the restaurant pays a living wage or gives health benefits? Is there a group that certifies restaurant ethics and social justice ......like Magen Tzedek is for kosher. I'm not Jewish but I do look for this this as it does mean something. Magen Tzedek is more common in the NE US and has not been as prevalent here in LA......well it's about time. Magen Tzedek for sushi! Yeah, I said it and I demand it!

          1. re: Johnny L
            j
            jaykayen RE: Johnny L Mar 15, 2013 10:15 AM

            Please do not try to say this is an Asian thing, or an industry thing, or that people should be so grateful to work at Urasawa that they should accept it. I have worked in restaurant kitchens as a cook, I have cook friends, and no one would dare try to not pay me overtime. Just to keep it real, though, I do admit that taking a 10 minute break every two hours and then getting a lunch break is unheard of.

            1. re: jaykayen
              Servorg RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 10:25 AM

              I think the fact that a lot of this practice comes over from the country of the origin of restaurants, and the most recent arrivals are, for the most part, Latin American and Asian immigrants bringing the same ideas about work to the US that the had back in their country of origin can be fairly postulated as a general rule. I wonder, for instance, how many of the Korean restaurants in K town adhere to California State and Federal guidelines when it comes to work place rules and regulations?

              1. re: Servorg
                j
                jaykayen RE: Servorg Mar 15, 2013 10:46 AM

                It's true, I have only worked in American/Euro cuisine restaurants. My cousins (immigrants) work in Vietnamese pho restaurants, and their employers might not follow labor laws. IME, Urasawa probably does not have a lot of new Latin American immigrants, or non-Japanese immigrants in the kitchen. I would say the split on following labor laws is not among Asian restaurants or not, it is about the price on the ticket. A pho place that runs 50% off specials constantly and I can get in and out for $5, realistically they may not be able to serve me for $5 if they follow labor laws. For $500 a head, I am really disappointed in Urasawa. This is not ok.

                1. re: jaykayen
                  Servorg RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 10:50 AM

                  Another issue at play here is the undocumented status of many of the employees in the restaurant business in general. Those who aren't supposed to be here, working or even living, are loath to make waves when it comes to long hours, no breaks and overtime pay being denied.

                  1. re: jaykayen
                    c
                    chewbacca RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 12:21 PM

                    I'm not sure how recently these people came to America but the name of the ex employee named in LA times was an Hispanic name. Urasawa definitely does not hire Japanese workers in the kitchen (I don't care if they are washing dishes......pay them a just wage on the profits of the company). This is not just "skilled" vs "non-skilled", this is about respect! How can you respect the food or chef when this is what is revealed. Disgusting! and I don't care if you come from a Kingdom. We have rules to protect the weak here.....enforce them with your $!

                    1. re: chewbacca
                      liu RE: chewbacca Mar 15, 2013 12:56 PM

                      " ...this is about respect!"

                      Amen!

                      This is not about politics or laws or cultural "differences;" rather this is about how you treat people. I put forth this same comment below, and chewbacca, I agree with you.

                      1. re: liu
                        m
                        maudies5 RE: liu Mar 15, 2013 03:32 PM

                        Agree that it is about respect and also illustrates the arrogance of the owner. Moreover, it illustrates the lack of respect Urusawa has for the customer if he thinks it is okay for a food handler with the flu to handle raw fish.

                2. re: jaykayen
                  j
                  Johnny L RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 11:51 AM

                  It is an Asian thing because I know from being Asian and working in the Asian restaurant industry. I'm not saying it's right just saying don't be surprised. Also not trying to justify Urasawa but I would think that flying all your fish in from Japan would obviously make things ridiculously pricey from a food costs perspective and the rent on the place isn't much better either. I would see where that would lead them to try and cut corners.

              2. re: jaykayen
                westsidegal RE: jaykayen Mar 15, 2013 01:05 AM

                agreed

                1. re: westsidegal
                  t
                  Thor123 RE: westsidegal Mar 15, 2013 07:13 PM

                  Agreed to what?

                  1. re: Thor123
                    westsidegal RE: Thor123 Mar 15, 2013 09:50 PM

                    to jaykayen's post.
                    on my computer, the post to which i responded is shown in light grey in the upper right corner of my post.

                    the primary way i knew your post was directed at me (other than its location) was that my handle showed up in the upper right corner of your post.

                    1. re: westsidegal
                      t
                      Thor123 RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 10:43 AM

                      Thanks my bad.

              3. ipsedixit RE: boogiebaby Mar 15, 2013 07:32 AM

                This is just part and parcel of the industry.

                Everyone does it. It just depends on whether you get caught or not.

                15 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit
                  b
                  brwencino RE: ipsedixit Mar 15, 2013 12:50 PM

                  What's your point, that it is ok so long as you don't get caught?

                  1. re: brwencino
                    ipsedixit RE: brwencino Mar 15, 2013 02:19 PM

                    My point is that that is just how the world works.

                    People who are surprised are either naive, or choose to be so.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      p
                      pickledtink RE: ipsedixit Mar 15, 2013 08:40 PM

                      Sad but true. It's a good thing to keep in mind when interacting with people in a service industry.

                      "The commission found that the kitchen staff regularly worked over 10 hours each day without overtime pay, rest breaks or meal breaks" (from article)

                      That sounds about right- I used to work at a local pizzeria and this was par for the course. Not including, of course, the hours after-shift for breakdown and cleanup. And this was a company just looking to turn a profit selling slices of pizza, not $$ fish!

                  2. re: ipsedixit
                    westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 12:36 AM

                    <<This is just part and parcel of the industry.>>

                    this is just part and parcel of EVERY industry.
                    that said, in almost every industry there are some people with character who are successful.

                    as a customer, i do make some attempt to identify which businesses are run in a principled fashion and try to direct my money to them.

                    obviously, i'm not going to be perfectly correct in every call.

                    from my own experience in the restaurant business, and from the experience of my roommates, i can say for sure that they are NOT all the same. there is a continuum.
                    some bosses treat their employees better than others.

                    with all other things being equal, i try to identify and favor the "good boss" places.

                    1. re: westsidegal
                      ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 17, 2013 11:14 AM

                      If, as you say, it is on a continuum, then where do you draw the line?

                      Is it ok to patronize a restaurant where the boss only deprives their workers of overtime pay on Tuesdays? Or, is it ok to go to a place if the boss deprives the workers of overtime pay on every Tue and Thu but provides a nice fat holiday bonus?

                      Obviously, I'm being a bit facetious here, but I think you see my point.

                      If it is indeed a continuum, then by implication you will have to draw the line of demarcation between what's a "good boss" place and what's not. And by definition, that line drawing will be arbitrary.

                      This is sort of like those vegetarians that only eat things without legs, and you say, well, what about crabs? And they say, well, those aren't legs, those are claws. Huh.

                      If one wanted to be really principled about it, I suppose the thing to do is never patronize any place that violates any type of labor or wage/hour laws. Otherwise, a person is just being a convenient moralist, if not a selective one.

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        Servorg RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 11:18 AM

                        You can always tell the restaurants that follow all the rules and regulations to the letter and without exception. They're the ones that are out of business, sooner rather than later...

                        1. re: Servorg
                          westsidegal RE: Servorg Mar 20, 2013 12:07 AM

                          actually, my first hand experience is contrary to yours, servorg.

                          that is why i don't subscribe to the oft repeated but not factual assertions that you made in the above post.

                          dick has had the same three successful restaurants for almost 40 years now. they look the same as they did about 40 years ago. their employees are still treated more than fairly (i.e. much better than the minimum required by law). the business model is exactly the same as it was then.
                          the omelet house that i worked at in sacramento before i went to work for the State of California was still in business using the same business model for about thirty years (that i knew about) after i left them.
                          after i moved to connecticut i used to call on prospects in sacramento and always went back there for a guacamole omelet before leaving town.
                          the kind owner of the coffee house that i used to frequent (daily for about a decade) kept it going until his acting career and the modeling career of his wife brought in too much money and took too much time for them to care enough about the coffee house to want to take on another long term lease.

                          and i can go on and on.

                          maybe the every single one of the restaurants you frequent can't seem to make ends meet (or generate enough profits for the owners) without breaking the rules, but that is far from universal.

                        2. re: ipsedixit
                          westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 12:25 PM

                          if i've heard of any violation of any type of labor or wage/hour laws, i'm OUT and all recommendations that might have been made or would be made by me are out as well.

                          AND
                          i do intentionally try to keep abreast of such things (i.e. i'm not sitting in my closet playing world of warcraft hoping that such news might parachute through my roof to land on my lap).

                          AND
                          i don't care if the complaint is perfectly proven beyond all doubt.
                          this is one of my prerogatives as a customer.
                          (this is not a death sentence case.)
                          i'm sure the restaurants will be able to find other customers that don't give a fig about issues that are important to me.
                          those other customers can provide the money the restaurant owner needs to survive.

                          truly, in every business there are some bad bosses and some bad employees.
                          i purposely do my best to avoid giving MY money to bad restaurant bosses.

                          1. re: westsidegal
                            ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 17, 2013 12:38 PM

                            http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE_whats...

                            Knock yourself out. And those are only the ones that are reported *and* adjudicated.

                            By the way, just out of curiosity does this ethos of yours apply only to restaurants, or all businesses?

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 01:03 PM

                              for the purposes of the LA board, let's keep the discussion to restaurants.

                              if you want to take it to the Not About Food board, we can have a more far-ranging discussion.

                              keep in mind though, that most of my discretionary income IS spent on RESTAURANT meals. (restaurants are my addiction. to me, even toast tastes better in a restaurant). i may never see Paris, but i will eat out at least once a day.

                              1. re: westsidegal
                                ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 17, 2013 01:52 PM

                                Then I hope that you lead nothing but a long, peaceful and principled life. Oh, and a delicious one as well.

                                Cheers.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 03:34 PM

                                  same to you!
                                  may our paths cross in a restaurant or two.

                                2. re: westsidegal
                                  k
                                  kevin RE: westsidegal Mar 17, 2013 10:06 PM

                                  "I may never seen Paris, but I will eat out at least once a day"

                                  Somehow this sentiment on a divergent note applies to me too.

                                  1. re: kevin
                                    westsidegal RE: kevin Mar 17, 2013 10:17 PM

                                    ;-)

                                    1. re: kevin
                                      j
                                      jesstifer RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 01:01 AM

                                      You should really skip a few weeks of meals in LA in order to have a weekend of meals in Paris. :-)

                        3. j
                          jessejames RE: boogiebaby Mar 15, 2013 10:52 AM

                          The most expensive restaurant around can't do the right thing here. The richest people whooping it up in the midst of suffering and injustice. Nothing like a little extra oppression with your toro. I've always dreamed about having the opportunity to eat at such an elite place like this...well, cross that off my bucket list. I hope they go out of business like Hump.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: jessejames
                            a
                            archer RE: jessejames Mar 15, 2013 10:58 AM

                            Well said! It's simply inexcusable & very disappointing for a restaurant that caters to such a wealthy crowd.

                            1. re: jessejames
                              westsidegal RE: jessejames Mar 18, 2013 12:44 PM

                              although the Hump has closed, aren't the owners of Typhoon the same as the owners of the now closed Hump?
                              if so, they just closed the Hump and are still doing business as Typhoon.

                              1. re: westsidegal
                                Servorg RE: westsidegal Mar 18, 2013 12:47 PM

                                No endangered insects on the Typhoon menu.

                                1. re: Servorg
                                  westsidegal RE: Servorg Mar 18, 2013 01:15 PM

                                  that be true,
                                  but if the owners are, in fact, the same,
                                  i will refrain.

                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                    k
                                    kevin RE: westsidegal Mar 18, 2013 01:25 PM

                                    I do have to try those non-endangered insects right about now.

                                    it does sound to be really good.

                                    on an off note, or rather another digression:

                                    Who has tried the insects, and lived to tell the tale ???

                                    Thanks.

                            2. liu RE: boogiebaby Mar 15, 2013 11:09 AM

                              I am glad to see the Chowhound response. It is reaffirming to KNOW that even though we Hounds spend most of our waking hours searching for and enjoying the best toro, we are not blind to such injustice. It's not about getting caught; it's about how we treat others. Wrong is wrong!

                              1. k
                                kevin RE: boogiebaby Mar 15, 2013 01:15 PM

                                Yeah, I heard about it on the radio two days ago.

                                I was surpised that it made front-page news on the news radio update.

                                And I did do a double take when I heard that.

                                Does that mean that the price for a meal there will go from $400 per person to say $525 per ???

                                What are your thoughts ?

                                29 Replies
                                1. re: kevin
                                  JAB RE: kevin Mar 15, 2013 01:52 PM

                                  And or they'll cut down on the gold leaf.

                                  1. re: JAB
                                    k
                                    kevin RE: JAB Mar 15, 2013 02:21 PM

                                    Yeah, no more gold leaf, no more beluga caviar, and no more shaved white truffles. And no toro and no Kobe beef.

                                    1. re: kevin
                                      westsidegal RE: kevin Mar 15, 2013 03:01 PM

                                      and no more business coming their way based on my recommendation. . . .

                                      1. re: westsidegal
                                        k
                                        kevin RE: westsidegal Mar 15, 2013 03:04 PM

                                        though i have never been there, i guess now i never will.

                                        have you been in the past ?

                                        1. re: kevin
                                          westsidegal RE: kevin Mar 15, 2013 09:58 PM

                                          no, but i have directed business to the place in the past.
                                          (when people ask me for "the best" japanese food in town, that's where i've been sending them)

                                          i will never send anyone there again.
                                          i certainly will never set foot in there myself.

                                          one of my core values is not to take advantage of people who are less advantaged than i am.
                                          my definition of "taking advantage" includes the labor practices that were spelled out in the article.

                                          when i was poor, i was fortunate to find bosses who were were principled and who didn't take advantage of me (Dick Rieman at Top Dog in Berkeley, i'm looking at you. Dick, you were ALWAYS fair to all of your employees even though you just ran hot dog stands and all your student employees would probably have tolerated mistreatment just to get work within walking distance of campus. You taught me that just because you can get away with being a douche, that doesn't mean that it's ok to be a douche)

                                          the lessons that i learned in those early, poor, days have stood me in good stead throughout the rest of my life.

                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                            b
                                            bulavinaka RE: westsidegal Mar 15, 2013 10:38 PM

                                            How's that saying go?
                                            "Character really is how you behave when you think no one is watching..."

                                            1. re: bulavinaka
                                              westsidegal RE: bulavinaka Mar 15, 2013 10:59 PM

                                              yup, absolutely.

                                              1. re: westsidegal
                                                t
                                                Thor123 RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 10:45 AM

                                                Could not agree more.

                                            2. re: westsidegal
                                              j
                                              Johnny L RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 03:00 AM

                                              Its nice you take your principles kindly but you'll never know how every restaurants handles it's "overtime" unless you work there. Otherwise there's little you can do other than boycott the ones that have been caught breaking the law.

                                              1. re: Johnny L
                                                b
                                                bulavinaka RE: Johnny L Mar 16, 2013 07:06 AM

                                                So true. The industries that heavily rely on immigrant labor are constantly pushing their cost structures to compete, pad their bottom line, etc. This is an age old business concept. Just in the US alone, plantations, railroads, farming then and now, sweatshops, construction, you name it. Urasawa obviously doesn't fit this profile. I mean, how many players are in the same market construct as this place? And who knows how things truly played out that led to this story. Other than those caught, conforming to the rules is probably not going to happen.

                                                1. re: bulavinaka
                                                  Servorg RE: bulavinaka Mar 16, 2013 07:21 AM

                                                  I'll just say that, even given the prices at Urasawa, the fact that they have so few diners every night, and looking at the historical costs of Beverly Hills rents, I can't imagine that they are raking/rolling in the dough like some here postulate. Just run the rough numbers and see for yourself.

                                                  1. re: Servorg
                                                    b
                                                    bulavinaka RE: Servorg Mar 16, 2013 08:12 AM

                                                    I don't doubt your comments. Running most businesses is a tough deal. Running a small business can be the toughest. At the same time, I don't think anyone is forcing Urasawa-san to run this particular business model.

                                                    It's more than safe to assume that he is passionate about his craft. He could have done just as well operating in a lower rent district. He chose to be in one of the most expensive per-square-foots. If he chooses to fly in seafood and other ingredients sourced from Japan and elsewhere, it's his job to build in the appropriate mark-ups to legitimately run his business. I am assuming he is. In the world of economics, Urasawa-san is a specialized resource. He can command a much higher price for his abilities than just about any others in this food chain, and he does.

                                                    Urasawa-san comes from a different culture where sucking it up is a given - gaman. For one of his staff to bow out might have been considered wussy or unthinkable in his eyes - pure conjecture on my part. My roots are in the same culture so I know this concept well. Hell, it could have been someone else below Urasawa who told the worker not to return - who knows - Urasawa might have just confirmed the decision since he at the top of the chain of command.

                                                    We know nothing about the employee - good, bad or otherwise. The person could have been an otherwise loyal giving employee, or maybe a lucky one who upsold him/herself at the time of hire and is now a chump on the slide. The person could have been legitimately sick, or might have been saying, "Screw this - I want to get off early to catch the game." We really don't know enough to pass judgement from either side, other than there was this wage violation. And even still, the LA Times article isn't detailed enough to determine how this all went down. The poor abused employee v. rich greedy taskmaster story is the best angle for any story. I'm not willing to take sides on this one.

                                                    I do think the industry in general is full of unsavory issues that most consumers would rather not see. This industry is wrought in a culture that many can't relate to. Sure, any and every person can claim they work hard for their money, but few can truly say that they work as hard or harder than most in the restaurant industry, particularly in the back house - the kitchen area. Japanese or not, immigrant or full-fledged citizen, you're expected to suck it up, get the job done, and when it's done, you are expected to do more and do this all over again the next day and the next. And most are undercompensated, the hours suck and the guests rarely thank them. I know many who are and have been willing to toil in the kitchen for little or no compensation, just to learn the craft from those they aspire to be like. Call it apprenticeship, slavery, whatever. It's part of this industry. So all in all, this story is no surprise, and oftentimes, money isn't the primary issue at hand in the back house.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka
                                                      Servorg RE: bulavinaka Mar 16, 2013 08:19 AM

                                                      I know what my wife puts in to her business. She routinely works 36 hours straight at least once a week and sometimes twice. She did a half day then straight through the night, all the next day and came home at 5 AM the following morning this week. And she grinds that schedule out week in and week out. So, to all those who run small restaurants (or non restaurants in my wife's case), my hat is way, way off to you in admiration for what you do to make your business a success.

                                                      1. re: Servorg
                                                        b
                                                        bulavinaka RE: Servorg Mar 16, 2013 08:42 AM

                                                        Your wife (and mine as well) were the first to come to mind. Very similar profile. The last thing I want to do is paint all business owners with the same brush. I know there are those who are driven by ethics at various levels. I know each one comes from different backgrounds and have a unique story to tell as to what inspired them to jump into this madness and what keeps driving them. But I also know that many have issues, and many are short in the "ethics and character" department. I am hoping that this is not the case r.e. Urasawa. More details about both sides would be nice but I don't think we will get much more...

                                                      2. re: bulavinaka
                                                        a
                                                        archer RE: bulavinaka Mar 16, 2013 06:49 PM

                                                        The fine was for failing to pay overtime to several (3 employees), completely unrelated to the fired employee who was part of a protest and had his own complaints about being let go because he was sick and wanted to leave early. And there really isn't a gray area; it's illegal and unethical not to pay appropriate wages for time worked. Many industries (e.g. film and fashion) also exploit workers, aware that they can get away with it because of the competition for jobs and people wanting to learn the craft. It still is inexcusable. That's why we have labor laws. As for the fired worker, you're right that there may be more to the story, but somehow I doubt it . And I would want any restaurant to err on the side of caution (as well as humanity) by not having sick workers handle my food.
                                                        The fact that cheating low-paid staff out of relatively meager overtime pay happened at a restaurant where only the wealthy can afford to eat makes the violation even more despicable, even if it is not uncommon or surprising.

                                                        1. re: archer
                                                          b
                                                          bulavinaka RE: archer Mar 17, 2013 06:01 AM

                                                          I've stated my views on what I consider to be a general culture of unsavory practices that are so common in the restaurant industry. I think we are somewhat in agreement there.

                                                          What I feel is still difficult to assess is the employee who claimed illness. I have too little info to assume this claim of illness and the issue of termination as fact. I am very close to a few people who deal directly in Human Resource issues - some where I've known the character of the participants - and have seen very disappointing decisions regardless of the evidence and testimonies. So I personally feel this issue is far from clear. The stories from cases that HR people deal with can be quite amazing. what is even more amazing is how to use cases off in time to get ruled.

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka
                                                            Porthos RE: bulavinaka Mar 17, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                            Just to echo what you said. It is mind boggling the number of people trying to claim disability or ask for exorbitant amounts of time off when they are perfectly able to work.

                                                            1. re: Porthos
                                                              k
                                                              kevin RE: Porthos Mar 17, 2013 10:07 PM

                                                              That is also a serious issue at play.

                                                          2. re: archer
                                                            JAB RE: archer Mar 18, 2013 07:04 AM

                                                            And Unions.

                                                        2. re: Servorg
                                                          westsidegal RE: Servorg Mar 16, 2013 06:48 PM

                                                          servorg:
                                                          keep in mind
                                                          he chose that business model, and he chose that location.
                                                          pardon me if i'm not going to cry tears of pity for him.

                                                          if he had treated his employees in a more stand-up way, i could muster some sympathy.

                                                          i, too, have worked in the restaurant business, the difference being,
                                                          i worked for stand-up people who probably would have shuttered their operations before squeezing the bottom-rung employees.

                                                          btw, it's now about 30 years later, and ALL of my former employers are STILL in business.
                                                          apparently one can be a mensch AND also be a successful restaurant owner.

                                                          i will always try to pay it forward by favoring restaurants that appear to treat their employees well.

                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                            ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 06:57 PM

                                                            if he had treated his employees in a more stand-up way, i could muster some sympathy.
                                                            ________________________________

                                                            Hmm, how do you know he doesn't?

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 16, 2013 07:19 PM

                                                              the very fact that there was an investigation and that he was fined is enough evidence for me.
                                                              i don't see too many people at the bottom-rung of society fabricating this sort of stuff and getting the government involved. when one is living hand to mouth, you don't normally have a lot of excess time to pursue the luxury of "justice."

                                                              don't forget, i started in the restaurant business, and, even after i left i had roommates who were in that business.

                                                              horrible practices, some legal, some not.
                                                              hiring ALL the servers as part time servers and then requiring ALL of them to be "on call" (unpaid) during the hours they aren't working thereby preventing them from filling in their time with another part time job.
                                                              legal? yes
                                                              moral? not in my book.

                                                              and on and on and on.

                                                              more than once i've heard conversations between the employers bragging to each other about how they squeeze their help.

                                                              makes me want to hurl.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal
                                                                ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 07:30 PM

                                                                I seriously doubt that one of the employees reported Urasawa to the CA DoL.

                                                                More likely than not, it was some sort of competitor that dropped a dime on him. Maybe Sushi Sushi or Yojisan?

                                                                I'm guessing his "help" did not feel abused. I bet most of them either (1) wanted to work for Hiroyuki Urasawa-san and considered it a privilege; or (2) didn't feel cheated or abused.

                                                                Just because a chef asks his employees to work without taking a break does not mean he is disrespecting them (or not treating them in a stand-up way). As you no doubt know very well, restaurants don't operate like, say, a typical office where you can just take a break and then come back to your desk. You have a full dining room, or someone makes a special request, that order has to be filled, and that more often than not means no break.

                                                                Just keep in mind that that eatocracy "article" cites no employee statements, or even why there was an investigation to begin with. Given CA budget constraints, DoL is not going to be doing very many random w&h investigations sua sponte. Very very few DoL (or EEOC wage related complaints) are initiated by current employees.

                                                                (As an aside, you don't think any of these employees are being paid cash on the side so that they don't have to report it on their W-2s? C'mon, lets get real here.)

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                  westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 16, 2013 07:54 PM

                                                                  even so,
                                                                  it's enough evidence for me.

                                                                  this is a hot button for me.
                                                                  any whiff of this type of practice and i'm gone.

                                                                  for years i had lunch daily in a particular coffee house.
                                                                  it wasn't because their food was the greatest,nor because their coffee was the absolute best.
                                                                  it was because they helped their hispanic employee navigate the course in order to become a citizen.
                                                                  when another employee, who had a family, had a prolonged illness, they kept him on staff and paid his full salary until he was able to return.
                                                                  the PRIVATE OWNER of the coffee house took over the sick employee's shift for two months and never dinged the guy.

                                                                  they were in no way obligated to treat their employees so well, but because they did, many of the customers, like me, favored the operation. i'd guess that well over half the customers were DAILY customers.

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                                                    ipsedixit RE: westsidegal Mar 16, 2013 07:59 PM

                                                                    For someone like you, I guess ignorance truly is bliss.

                                                                    And I don't mean that in any sort of condescending or negative way, cuz you know I have more respect for you than that.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 16, 2013 08:05 PM

                                                                      all i can do is try to stay alert about the places i frequent.

                                                                      as you know, i have a normal rotation that is relatively stable.
                                                                      this constancy has, as one of its benefits, an increased likelihood of getting the inside scoop:
                                                                      not a guarantee, but a higher probability than an infrequent customer would have.

                                                                      at this point, perfect knowledge in this area is impossible now that
                                                                      1) i'm no longer in the business
                                                                      and
                                                                      2) now that my roommate who was a server, is working as a PA in the entertainment business.

                                                                  2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                    m
                                                                    maudies5 RE: ipsedixit Mar 16, 2013 10:27 PM

                                                                    There was a much longer article on eaterLA which linked to an investigation by KtLA. Sadly, the link is no longer visible. The employee sounded extremely credible and said he had been working for Urusawa for several years,having started his employment at the age of 17. He believed he was wrongfully terminated when he wished to leave before the end of his shift as he had the flu and felt he was compromising the health of the patrons by handling raw fish. According to the complaint, he was fired for not completing his shift. I guess the employee got legal assistance and discovered that he was owed money.http://www.latimes.com/business/money...

                                                                    1. re: maudies5
                                                                      ipsedixit RE: maudies5 Mar 17, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                                      If that employee in the eaterLA article is to be believed, then aren't you even more wary of what went on here?

                                                                      Who works at a place since the age of 17 (and presumably for many years) decides to only blow the whistle on his boss after being fired? All those years that that person was employed at Urasawa, did he feel he was not being treated in a "stand up" way (as westsidegal put it)? Or did he only realize this after his termination? As in, "Holy cow Batman, now that I'm out of a job, you mean I should've been paid for all those hours I worked beyond 8/day??"

                                                                      And as bulavinaka mentions upthread, what employer fires an employee over asking to go home early, for the flu, one time? Really? C'mon, we're all adults here.

                                                                      Like any piece of paper, there's always two sides to every story. No matter how thin that piece of paper is. I have yet to see a piece of paper so thin that there is only one side to it.

                                                                      (As an aside, maudie5, how can you discern "credibility" with the written word? If you really can, then that's a talent that I would like to hire or borrow sometime, because most people can't even discern credibility face-to-face, much less just by reading the written word.)

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                        boogiebaby RE: ipsedixit Mar 17, 2013 11:29 AM

                                                                        I work in HR and Ipse is right - the chances of this employee being fired for calling in once are slim. More than likely, he asked for the day off ahead of time, was turned down for some reason, and then mysteriously got sick on the same day he wanted off. (I had a guy once whose grandma died 3 times in one year, and always died over a holiday weekend. He was told not to come back unless he could produce proof of death). Or he's called in sick 3 of the last 5 Saturdays he was supposed to work. There's almost always a reason behind a firing other than a one time issue. Chances are, this was his "final straw" issue.

                                          2. Chandavkl RE: boogiebaby Mar 17, 2013 10:38 AM

                                            Average net profit for restaurants run between 1% and 5% of sales, so there is validity to the "industry practice" concept mentioned in this thread. But right is right, and Urasawa either is earning over the industry average or they need to raise their prices to compensate for being fair to their workers.

                                            1. K K RE: boogiebaby Mar 17, 2013 02:20 PM

                                              Hmmm like student like teacher.....heard stories of Masa Takayama doing the same thing (and apparently is infamous for it), yet nobody said anything about him. Perhaps it is a matter of being lucky....like teacher gets away with this and serves/served fugu, whereas the student gets busted on fugu and labor...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: K K
                                                k
                                                kevin RE: K K Mar 17, 2013 10:12 PM

                                                Yes.

                                                Maybe someone is breaking the law but until the authorities find out about the illegal activity he/she can continue doing what she/he was doing.

                                                And this can continue on forever unless someone brings it up to the authorities.

                                                I do have to say that the article was a tad bit thin in the facts so that for some who would say some or even a lot of the available facts are missing, I would agree with that sentiment.

                                              2. k
                                                kevin RE: boogiebaby Mar 18, 2013 11:42 AM

                                                So who given the limited evidence based on these recent articles will continue to patronize Urasawa ?

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: kevin
                                                  n
                                                  ns1 RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 11:52 AM

                                                  If I had 900 bucks to spare I'd go in a heartbeat.

                                                  1. re: kevin
                                                    j
                                                    jessejames RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 12:01 PM

                                                    So you'll take Chowhound speculation over a conclusive state investigation that resulted in the fines and penalties?

                                                    Count me out on Urasawa.

                                                    1. re: jessejames
                                                      k
                                                      kevin RE: jessejames Mar 18, 2013 01:12 PM

                                                      Not chow hound speculation. I'm stating based on the investigation as it stands right now, and the state of the evidence right now, would one still go ?

                                                      1. re: kevin
                                                        westsidegal RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 01:16 PM

                                                        no

                                                        1. re: kevin
                                                          boogiebaby RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 01:20 PM

                                                          If they intentionally violated overtime laws, then no.

                                                          If they unintentionally violated overtime laws, then yes. For example, double time was due to the employee when they worked more than 12 hours, but the overtime was paid at 1.5 time because of honest misinformation. As an HR professional, I've heard of that happening at many companies. California has a lot of employment related laws, about 500 of them, compared to 100 or less in most other states. It's hard for a small business owner to know them all.

                                                          1. re: boogiebaby
                                                            k
                                                            kevin RE: boogiebaby Mar 18, 2013 01:26 PM

                                                            No joke.

                                                            You do have a valid point there boogie.

                                                            1. re: boogiebaby
                                                              b
                                                              bulavinaka RE: boogiebaby Mar 18, 2013 01:56 PM

                                                              Our state is known to have labor laws that often conflict with so many other states' as well as federal laws. Not making excuses for Urasawa but the HR folks I referred to tell me of many Fortune 500 firms that ernestly try to navigate the labor laws here and odten fail, get fined,and pay compensation to employees who are in the blue as to why they're getting compensation.

                                                              I'm guessing Urasawa will be seriously watching its p's and q's. The fine is nothing compared to the damage that this exposure has done to its reputation.

                                                            2. re: kevin
                                                              a
                                                              andytseng RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 01:32 PM

                                                              I would still go. They got fined, so the governing body came in and said, this is how much you owe, now pay it. To me, they should now be in good standing. I imagine that a good number of restaurants (particularly Chinese and Japanese restaurants) operate this way and might owe a lot of workers $, but Urasawa has gone through the ringer and is being forced to repay their debt.

                                                              In my mind, it's akin to would you hire an ex-con to work for you

                                                              1. re: andytseng
                                                                t
                                                                Thor123 RE: andytseng Mar 18, 2013 01:37 PM

                                                                Probably would be hesitant.

                                                                1. re: andytseng
                                                                  Porthos RE: andytseng Mar 18, 2013 01:45 PM

                                                                  In my mind, it's akin to would you hire an ex-con to work for you
                                                                  =========================
                                                                  That's a bit harsh.

                                                                  More like speeding and should one be allowed to drive again after 1 offense.

                                                                  Speeding does after all place other people's lives in danger and though we all know the posted limit is 65mph on the freeway, I'll bet most go over if the flow of traffic allows.

                                                                  I wasn't planning on going back before the incident so that doesn't change anything for me personally.

                                                            3. re: kevin
                                                              n
                                                              ns1 RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 01:47 PM

                                                              i feel like such a capitalist pig since this doesn't bother me at all and everyone else is so "OMG I'm not gonna go there anymore"

                                                              1. re: kevin
                                                                ipsedixit RE: kevin Mar 18, 2013 02:17 PM

                                                                I'd go.

                                                                Makes no difference to me. At all.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                  t
                                                                  Thor123 RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 02:24 PM

                                                                  I would go too. Prefer not to pay however.

                                                                  1. re: Thor123
                                                                    ipsedixit RE: Thor123 Mar 18, 2013 02:26 PM

                                                                    The labor violations fine, or the price of the meal?

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      t
                                                                      Thor123 RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 02:31 PM

                                                                      The price of the meal. He should pay the fine (probably, as I dont know all the facts).

                                                              2. Mr Taster RE: boogiebaby Mar 18, 2013 02:26 PM

                                                                The thing that puzzles me is that I'm assuming most people on this thread have seen "Hiro Dreams of Sushi", and yet remain incredulous that these practices could happen.

                                                                Perfection always has a price, over and above the actual monetary cost.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                  ipsedixit RE: Mr Taster Mar 18, 2013 02:33 PM

                                                                  Anyone troubled by this should stay far far far far away from just about any Chinese restaurant in SGV.

                                                                  Or better yet, just pretend they don't exist. You'll sleep better at night.

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                    Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 02:36 PM

                                                                    Not to mention the foot massage joints

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 02:38 PM

                                                                      Expectations come as a free side order with your meal. When you pay $25 for a meal that feeds 4 people, one expects there's some exploitation involved somewhere in the chain. When you're paying $400 per person, one hopes the price tag has helped to purchase fair wages and a clean conscience.

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                        a
                                                                        archer RE: Mr Taster Mar 18, 2013 05:03 PM

                                                                        Agreed! I cannot imagine ever paying that much for a meal, but if I ever should have the opportunity, it won't be at a place I know has failed to pay its workers. (And expectations are different; it's similar to paying more for clothing produced by union workers vs. saving $ by buying items made in a sweat shop). I'm mystified by those who consider this some sort of oversight (or mistake, like speeding). It's a conscious decision to not pay overtime for hours worked. This is not part of complicated labor law, it's really very straight forward: one is paid appropriately for time worked or not. We have laws to protect workers against such exploitation.

                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                          b
                                                                          bulavinaka RE: Mr Taster Mar 18, 2013 06:41 PM

                                                                          While your words are well chosen, price and character in no way are tied to the same trajectory. If they were, diamond miners would not be rich.

                                                                        2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 03:55 PM

                                                                          will absolutely take your advice on this, ipse.
                                                                          will stay far far far away from any Chinese restaurant in SGV.
                                                                          thanks for the 411

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                            Servorg RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 04:01 PM

                                                                            I'm too much of a sinner to play the saint card...not only would no one who knows me buy it for a minute, I couldn't help but start laughing if I tried to sell it...

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              k
                                                                              kevin RE: ipsedixit Mar 18, 2013 05:10 PM

                                                                              In the industry, I believe they call it willful blindness.

                                                                          2. m
                                                                            M_and_H RE: boogiebaby Mar 18, 2013 02:38 PM

                                                                            Does the "unpaid" overtime pay on their $4/hr wages really matter in comparison when their real income are from a share of the 20% tips on the $400 ++ pp meals? Sure he might've broken the labor law, but I doubt he has taken advantage of the employees.

                                                                            1. k
                                                                              kainzero RE: boogiebaby Mar 19, 2013 01:36 PM

                                                                              i feel like this is standard practice at asian restaurants

                                                                              i do feel like urasawa is getting more buzz because it's a top-tier restaurant, but i've also heard of similar exploitation going on at hannosuke in mitsuwa...

                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                              1. re: kainzero
                                                                                westsidegal RE: kainzero Mar 19, 2013 04:54 PM

                                                                                thank you for the heads up.
                                                                                won't go there either.

                                                                                1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                  n
                                                                                  ns1 RE: westsidegal Mar 19, 2013 05:01 PM

                                                                                  cross little saigon off the list too.

                                                                                  1. re: ns1
                                                                                    k
                                                                                    kainzero RE: ns1 Mar 19, 2013 05:05 PM

                                                                                    might as well cross off big saigon too.

                                                                                    1. re: kainzero
                                                                                      Servorg RE: kainzero Mar 19, 2013 05:42 PM

                                                                                      And Korea town

                                                                                      1. re: Servorg
                                                                                        westsidegal RE: Servorg Mar 19, 2013 06:18 PM

                                                                                        bby bye on dal

                                                                                        1. re: Servorg
                                                                                          ipsedixit RE: Servorg Mar 19, 2013 07:05 PM

                                                                                          Easier, I think, to list the places that westsidegal *can* go to, as opposed to places she cannot.

                                                                                          List will be shorter. Much much much shorter. Might even be no list at all when all is said and done.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                            westsidegal RE: ipsedixit Mar 20, 2013 12:30 AM

                                                                                            somehow or other, i'm still eating out every day at restaurants that the employees tell me treat them well.
                                                                                            i've been able to do this for decades in 7 cities.

                                                                                            maybe you are nursing this fantasy of yours to justify something or other?

                                                                                            or maybe i am not looking for the kind of "bargains" that you may require?

                                                                                        2. re: kainzero
                                                                                          westsidegal RE: kainzero Mar 19, 2013 06:17 PM

                                                                                          never had an interest in going to saigon anyway. now i have another reason not to go

                                                                                        3. re: ns1
                                                                                          westsidegal RE: ns1 Mar 19, 2013 06:15 PM

                                                                                          done, it's crossed off.
                                                                                          not very big on driving anyway.
                                                                                          will find somewhere else to spend my money

                                                                                          1. re: ns1
                                                                                            westsidegal RE: ns1 Mar 19, 2013 06:16 PM

                                                                                            it's crossed off, thanks

                                                                                          2. re: westsidegal
                                                                                            j
                                                                                            jessejames RE: westsidegal Mar 20, 2013 09:32 AM

                                                                                            Good for you - I agree on Urasawa especially and on the rest too. Unlike the other spots listed above, Urasawa is the most expensive restaurant in town with the richest diners. This place is more than double the price (at least) of other restaurants in the neighborhood. The sushi chef likely gets a nice cut of the tips too, but that's speculation. What isn't speculation is the appropriate investigation and penalty from the State. Dining there would feel like Dennis Rodman partying in North Korea. No thanks.

                                                                                            1. re: jessejames
                                                                                              k
                                                                                              kevin RE: jessejames Mar 20, 2013 11:26 AM

                                                                                              Rodman has always seemed to be an interesting character.

                                                                                          3. re: kainzero
                                                                                            c
                                                                                            cfylong RE: kainzero Mar 20, 2013 11:46 AM

                                                                                            This is stating the obvious. Your statement seems to condone that practice. I tend to believe that most restaurants pay their employees. If Urasawa did what they did, this is fair criticism and they should pay deeply for it.

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