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LA Korean BBQ Chain Hit With $2.1 Million Fine For Wage Theft  

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Prime galbi at Genwa in Los Angeles. (T. Tseng via Flickr)
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Los Angeles is famed for outstanding Korean BBQ, but workers' advocates say working conditions at many of these restaurants are poor.

Now the state has cracked down on one chain in a major way.

The California Labor Commissioner's Office has issued a $2.1 million fine to the couple that owns the Genwa restaurants after determining they had stolen wages from 325 of their workers.

The state's investigation found that staff at the Mid-Wilshire and Beverly Hills locations were forced to go off the clock for one hour up to three times a day during an 11-hour shift. Other violations, according to the state:

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  • No rest or meal breaks as required by law
  • Failure to pay nearly half of the workers the required minimum hourly wage
  • Shorting more than half of the employees on overtime pay and not providing itemized wage statements
  • Forcing servers to attend quarterly meetings without pay, even on days off.

"Requiring restaurant workers to leave and return to work without proper split shift premiums is wage theft," Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement. "This wage theft tactic and other labor law violations undermine workers and provide an unfair advantage over law-abiding restaurant employers."
Genwa's corporate officers Jay and Jin Kwon are ordered to pay $1.4 million for wage violations affecting servers, dishwashers and cooks, as well as another $634,000 in civil penalties.

The Kwons have appealed the citations, according to the state.

The state investigation started in August 2018 after workers reported they were missing hours to the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and Bet Tzedek legal services.

A third Genwa location in downtown L.A. was not part of the citations.