SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Chinatown Supermarket in South Salt Lake is facing a federal lawsuit alleging that the company obstructed an investigation of its employment labor practices.
On March 3, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (WHD) initiated an investigation into Chinatown’s pay practices.
Later that day, the WHD emailed Chinatown Supermarket’s building manager Elyas Raigne. The email included information about the investigation and identified documents Raigne would have to make available for review to the WHD, court records state.
On March 4, Raigne allegedly held a meeting with employees instructing them to tell the WHD that no employees work more than 40 hours per week. Raigne also allegedly had employees sign a “Non-competition, Non-Solicitation, and Confidentiality Agreement” that restricts employees’ disclosure of the information and ability to work for competitors of Chinatown after separation from the company, court records state.
When Wage and Hour Investigators (WHI) visited Chinatown Supermarket, they found that the employees appeared “anxious and reluctant to speak to them.” Investigators took a photo of a time clock and time cards while they were at the facility.
During a phone with Raigne’s representative, a WHI found that the firm did not use timecards.
On a second visit to the facility, investigators found employees once again appear anxious and reluctant to talk as managers stood within earshot of the interview.
When timecard requests were made, Raigne stated that he did not have access to any records because the owner had been out of the country for six months and he was the only one to have access, court records state.
Raigne was also unable to produce any timekeeping records generated within the previous six months.
WHD then learned that Raigne has removed Spanish-speaking employees from their regular work schedule for the days the company believed WHD would inspect the site in an attempt to stop WHD from speaking with those employees.
Several injunctions have been issued following the lawsuit as well as several orders requiring Raigne to provide a list of all employees with contact information. Raigne must also read aloud a statement in English, Spanish, and Mandarin that informs all employees of their right to speak, without retaliation or threats of retaliation or intimidation.