After a 10 month lawsuit alleging federal and state labor violations including wage theft, harassment and exposure to unsafe working conditions, the owners of Happy Lamb Hot Pot have agreed to a settlement this past Monday with the fourteen former employees responsible for the allegations. Greater Boston Legal Services, which represented the case, indicated the workers are satisfied with the settlement.
In the allegations, the former employees reported Happy Lamb consistently failed to pay minimum wage and overtime as required by federal and state law. Other violations alleged by the suit included workers suffering injuries as a result of exposure to r harsh cleaning chemicals, illegal garnishment of tips by managers, retaliation and reports of physical violence.
“In this current climate, many workers have been hesitant to enforce their rights,” said Bethany Li, a GBLS attorney representing the case. “Our clients prioritized creating an environment that is safe and just for all workers. We are happy they are satisfied with the outcome of this case.”
The $800,000 lawsuit has drawn both local and national media attention as a result of high profile public protests ongoing since February outside the chain restaurants’ Chinatown and Cambridge locations, drawing support from the likes of Boston city councilor Ed Flynn, Cambridge city councillors Sumbul Siddiqui and Quinton Zondervan and State representative Mike Connolly.
“I know that violations of workers’ rights happen very often in the entire restaurant industry. Employers have legal obligations, but they regularly do not follow them and do not pay the minimum wage, or tips, or overtime,” Eric Zhang, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, stated following the settlement. “I hope that more workers know that we have rights and we have legal means to protect ourselves and each other.”
While Happy Lamb has formally denied the accusations, they petitioned the city earlier last month for the transference of a beer, wine and spirits license to a proposed third location at 130 Brighton Avenue in Allston from the former tenants, Sunset Grill & Tap. It is uncertain how the settlement may affect Happy Lamb’s proposed expansion.