Ju Weng and Yu Con Weng are two brothers who have been living the dream life in Dallas, reaping the benefits of a very successful start-up business. The two have built a veritable Chinese buffet empire throughout the area: Together, they own and manage the Yes Buffet, Crown Buffet, Win Chinese Buffet, and Royal Buffet. If you've buffeted recently, chances are you've buffeted with a Weng Bro.
But the Weng brothers came under federal investigation this spring due to allegations that the predominantly tipped employees were being worked overtime for free. The investigation recently concluded, and it was discovered that the Wengs owed back wages to more than 60 employees.
The majority of employees at the four buffets were working between 55 and 60 hours per week without being paid for overtime labor. Most of these employees were also tipped staff, meaning their minimum wage sat at $2.13 per hour. The Wengs failed to ensure that the wages earned through tips matched the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25.
This news comes in light of recent debate surrounding tipped workers' salaries. Many say that when the employer is dependant on the customer to provide a workers' salary, it incentivizes tip pooling violations, such as that of the Wengs.
The Weng brothers were unavailable for comment, but Juan Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Dallas bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, told Unfair Park that the Wengs' story is just one of many around the city.
Often, he says, tip-pooling violations can come in addition to extra charges. Sometimes employers will also charge workers for broken equipment or dishes, or for their work uniforms. "This kind of thing happens quite a bit," says Rodriguez. "And unfortunately, it is fairly common around the DFW area."
No word on how long, exactly, the Weng employees were overworked without pay before someone stepped forward. "The most important thing is that people need to know their rights and call us if they think their rights are being violated," says Rodriguez. The Wengs will be paying $188,970 in back wages, to be divided among their employees depending on their overtime hours.