Typhoon! settles civil rights charges
Thai restaurant chain will pay $100,000 to state fund for employee claims
The state labor commissioner has reached a $100,000 settlement with a Tigard company that allegedly committed civil rights, wage and hour violations against its employees.
Typhoon! Inc. has been investigated for years for its workplace practices.
The now defunct Thai food restaurant chain which operated a restaurant in the Gresham Station shopping center has agreed to pay $100,000 to a claim fund to be administered by the states Bureau of Labor and Industries during the next year.
Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian said in a statement last week the money would be added to a claim fund that could be used to pay back salaries and other money owed to former Typhoon! employees.
This settlement means workers who were treated unfairly will see relief immediately, and that peace of mind is something that they had not felt until BOLI got involved, Avakian said.
Bureau officials, who are charged with enforcing civil rights laws, said they initially intended to seek $250,000 for each Thai employee subjected to unlawful employment practices, which could have totaled about $2.75 million.
Typhoon!s case was scheduled to go before a judge in May, but BOLI and the company opted for a settlement, Avakian said, to ensure employees were compensated.
Typhoon! co-owner Steve Kline died of a heart attack in August 2011, and the company closed all its restaurants in February, citing his death as the primary reason.
Its clear that Typhoon will not be able to satisfy all its debts, and Im not going to take chances with the well-being of Oregon families at stake, Avakian said.
The settlement brings to an end years of lawsuits and investigations against the restaurant chain, which operated restaurants in Gresham, Beaverton, West Linn, Portland and Redmond, Wash. It also ran a catering business out of its headquarters in Tigard.
Kline and his wife, Bo Kline, fought the BOLI allegations for years, calling them a witch hunt.
The company, which began with a single Northwest Portland restaurant in 1995, employed about 200 people at its Oregon and Washington locations, many recruited directly from Thailand.
I appreciate Bo Kline and Typhoon stepping up now to start setting things right with these workers, Avakian said. Especially for a group of workers who came to this country seeking economic opportunity and then found themselves feeling trapped in jobs they couldnt buy their way out of. Its a great relief to see some measure of justice and relief finally coming to them.
In December 2010, BOLI charged the restaurant group with unlawful labor practices, saying Typhoon! discriminated against its Thai employees. Agency investigators claimed Typhoons Thai workers were paid less, worked longer hours and signed unfavorable contract terms that were not required of non-Thai workers.
In July 2011, a three-member arbitration panel cleared the company of claims it was involved in human trafficking charges in a 2008 lawsuit involving a former cook. But Typhoon! was found to have discriminated based on the chef's Thai origins and would have to pay her $268,000 worker's compensation claim and unpaid overtime.
Former Typhoon! employees must submit claims to BOLI describing their experiences working for Typhoon as Thai citizens in order to be eligible for any of the settlement money, BOLI said in a statement.