While the government was quick to hand out Business Interruption Grants to businesses across the country struggling from the effects of the pandemic-induced shutdown, company’s applying for the grant did have to meet certain criteria. The companies needed to be able to prove they had been financially impacted by COVID-19, and that they would use the money from the grants for necessary business expenses, such as payroll. What was less widely discussed was the fact that recipients of grants also needed to abide by all city, state, and federal labor laws applicable to their business, something Tank Noodle allegedly failed to do.
The Vietnamese restaurant was asked to return the grant money it received after federal investigators found they were in violation of several labor laws, including allegedly withholding wages from their employees. Tank Noodle also received two loans from the Payment Protection Program totaling almost $400,000, although it is not yet clear whether they will be made to pay back that money in addition to the grant money they received.
Poor working conditions for very little pay is a systemic and long-standing problem throughout the restaurant industry, and it’s not limited to fast-food restaurants. High-end restaurants are equally likely to ignore labor laws, and white employees are just as often subject to very low pay as their minority coworkers (although white servers do tend to receive larger tips).
In the summer of 2020, amidst the nationwide social unrest and calls for racial justice, several Chicago restaurants were accused of abusing their staff, including allegations of racism. Some of those restaurants were forced to permanently shut down as a result of the accusations, but Tank Noodle managed to keep its kitchen open.
Tank Noodle, a Vietnamese restaurant located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, hired a Vietnamese server in 2018, explaining the server could start right away, but that the only pay they would receive would be in tips. The server took the job because they needed the money, not realizing how low the pay would be or the lack of transparency at the restaurant when it came to tips. Continue reading ›