Trial Potentially Affecting Hundreds of Employees in the Foot Massage Parlor Industry in Southern California Has Been Decided in Favor of Employees

Share Article

The verdict is in. The 8-Day jury trial in the case of Ladi He and Yuhai Song v. Wonderful Beauty Spa (Case nos. BC 373346 & BC 373347) has been decided. The jury decided on September 25, 2008 that the owner of Wonderful Beauty Spa (Shangri-La), Jack Chen, violated the rights of Plaintiffs by failing to provide meal breaks, rest breaks, paid overtime, and the balance of pay upon termination. They also rejected all arguments that foot massage parlor workers are independent contractors and not employees.

This case should have been settled for a fraction of what the jury came back with. However, the owner refused to put forth any meaningful settlement offer to avoid trial. We forewarned him that his actions toward his employees were so unreasonable that no jury would stand for such treatment. Frankly, he was lucky that the jury did not make the damages even higher.

The verdict is in. The 8-Day jury trial in the case of Ladi He and Yuhai Song v. Wonderful Beauty Spa (Case nos. BC 373346 & BC 373347) has been decided.

The jury decided on September 25, 2008 that the owner of Wonderful Beauty Spa (Shangri-La), Jack Chen, violated the rights of Plaintiffs by failing to provide meal breaks, rest breaks, paid overtime, and the balance of pay upon termination. Both were required to a work a minimum of 12 hours per day without meal and rest breaks. Song worked six days a week while He worked seven.

Other findings that the jury made was that Jack Chen acted unreasonably toward his employees when he terminated Plaintiff Yuhai Song when he was injured on the job and that he failed to act diligently when Plaintiff Ladi He began to bleed vaginally over five days but was not allowed to go see a doctor, resulting in 9-1-1 being called.

Although Plaintiffs He and Song worked for Chen only 36 and 50 days respectively, the jury awarded them damages in the approximate amount of $80,000.00. A subsequent cost and attorney bills should push the figures substantially higher.

Long Z. Liu and Terrence Huang, defense counsels in the case, argued that Jack Chen owed no responsibility to Plaintiffs on the wage and hour violations because Plaintiffs were independent contractors. In addition, they stated that the case was a conspiracy by Plaintiffs to divert business away from Wonderful Beauty Spa to competitors in the industry.

Paul P. Cheng and Stephen J. Kane were Plaintiffs' counsel. When asked why the jury responded with such numbers Mr. Cheng responded: "Although the amounts claimed originally were only in the thousands of dollars, the jury, which I believe represented a broad cross-section of society, has spoken. They have said that this country will not tolerate any form of abuse in any social and cultural group. Their unwillingness to allow Jack Chen to run from his responsibility tells all of us that America accepts Asians for what they are, citizens of this country. We are all Americans. And as Asian-Americans we can and must depend on the law like any other social group.

"This case should have been settled for a fraction of what the jury came back with. However, the owner refused to put forth any meaningful settlement offer to avoid trial. We forewarned him that his actions toward his employees were so unreasonable that no jury would stand for such treatment. Frankly, he was lucky that the jury did not make the damages even higher."

Mr. Kane expressed the following thoughts: "When we agreed to take this case on, I was unable to turn a blind-eye to the plight of Ladi He and Yuhai Song. I agreed to fight and correct the injustice that this business owner had inflicted on his employees. The case was not just about money. It was about doing what is right. The United States' system of justice is specifically designed to deal with cases like this. Today, it did not let us down."

This case has far reaching implications. Thousands of Asian immigrants are hired throughout Southern California to work in foot massage parlors. While many do so willingly, they must endure excruciating hours of hard labor for pay that falls much lower than minimum wage. Many employers understand that these workers do not speak English. Many are threatened with deportation if they complain. Most disputes are handled by the employee just walking away from the job, knowing that they have been violated, but unable to effectuate their interests.

This case is one of the first to expose the Asian foot-massage parlor business. Almost all cases are settled immediately upon filing. The windows in most businesses are dark and frequently non-Asians are barred from entering establishments. As such, over the last few years, this underground industry has been able to proliferate across Southern California unabated and without following the laws established for the industry.

The laws pertaining to massage parlors are difficult to enforce. Many businesses when caught with fraudulent or lack of licensing, open their business only at night or move locations to keep one step ahead of the law.

Mr. Cheng believes that this case is not a black eye for the Asian community but one that will change the way business is done: "I am not ashamed that all parties in this case were Chinese. Since this lawsuit, many foot massage parlors have begun to offer minimum wage. Others have come to me wanting to know how to comply with the law. In my opinion, many of these business owners want to obey the law, but just do not know how to do it.

"It is my hope that in taking on such cases, we can make the lives of immigrants better, one case at a time. No one should ever be subjected to the conditions that the Plaintiffs went through. Although our practice centers on protecting businesses, we find no conflict in taking on cases that make an impact on society."

Los Angeles Superior Court
Department 42
111 N. Hill St.
Los Angeles, California
Jury Verdict

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Paul P. Cheng

626-356-8880
Email >

Long Z. Liu
Visit website