In the annals of crappy bosses, nobody really compares to the Bonnie and Clyde of small business — Anna Wong and Jimmy Quon — a middle-aged, married San Francisco couple who ran a garment factory in SOMA (until it folded) and now own a Chinatown restaurant (conveniently called Chinatown Restaurant).
First, in 2002, the state successfully sued to force the pair to pay more than $1 million in wages owed to some 276 garment factory employees, many of whom had toiled for weeks or months without a paycheck. Two years later, the feds busted Anna and Jimmy on felony bankruptcy fraud charges for allegedly trying to conceal some $2 million in assets from creditors — including all those unpaid garment workers. (The fraud case is expected to go to trial this fall.)
Then, last Wednesday, the pair found themselves in trouble again, this time with the local authorities. During a tense hearing at City Hall, San Francisco officials tried to give Anna and Jimmy a bureaucratic pummeling for failing to pay the minimum wage to former Chinatown Restaurant employees, who were purportedly shorted anywhere from $69 to $2,444 apiece. The city, through its Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, is seeking $48,744 in penalties from the restaurateurs.
Jimmy didn't make it to the hearing, but Anna showed up — in a tan dress, with a chunk of jade hanging around her neck. She didn't seem to have much respect for her foes in local government. “I think they're crazy,” she said in a brief interview. “I don't know what they're doing.”
Though the case involves only five workers, the city clearly thinks the pair may have stiffed more people: In a brief prepared for the hearing, deputy city attorney Jill Figg notes that Anna and Jimmy have repeatedly refused to turn over their payroll records, and says she believes the minimum-wage problem is ongoing.
As for Anna and Jimmy, well, they had an interesting response to the accusations. Through lawyer Erik Babcock, they suggested the ex-employees are undocumented immigrants who can't work legally in the U.S. — and thus aren't entitled to wages, minimum or otherwise. “Paying them for that work,” Babcock explained, “is in contravention” of federal law.
At press time, the matter was in the hands of an administrative law judge, who hadn't yet ruled on the case. Anna and Jimmy, meanwhile, are still in business.