Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian announced Thursday a settlement of civil rights charges against Typhoon!, Inc., which has been buffeted by allegations of civil rights and wage and hour law violations and ceased operations earlier this year.
Avakian launched the initial investigation by filing a commissioner's complaint, which allows the Labor and Industries commissioner to initiate possible enforcement while shielding workers from potential retaliation.
Commissioner's complaints are also used in situations where significant numbers of workers may be affected, and especially where there are language or cultural barriers to individuals filing their own discrimination complaints.
Avakian was prepared to prosecute Typhoon for unlawful discrimination against workers from Thailand, who were required to sign exhaustive employment agreements and were paid lower wages than U.S.-hired employees. Typhoon continues to deny any wrongdoing.
"It's clear that Typhoon will not be able to satisfy all its debts, and I'm not going to take chances with the well-being of Oregon families at stake," Avakian said. "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."
Typhoon shuttered its five remaining restaurants, including one in Bend, in early February, but under a formal settlement of the state charges will provide $100,000 to a claim fund to be administered by the Bureau of Labor and Industries over the next year.
Former employees of the restaurant chain may submit claims to BOLI describing their experiences working for Typhoon as Thai citizens, which the agency alleged included hours worked off the clock, wages below what U.S.-recruited employees were paid, and other discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.
"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 couldn't buy their way out of, it's a great relief to see some measure of justice and relief finally coming to them."
Visit www.oregon.gov/BOLI for more information about all of BOLI's work to protect workers' rights in Oregon.