The bargains at One Greene Sushi Lounge weren’t only on the menu — but in the payroll.
A pair of disgruntled ex-waiters at an established Fort Greene sushi restaurant has filed complaints with the state Labor Department, alleging that the workers were paid well below the minimum wage while serving up delicious spicy tuna rolls.
It’s the second time in four months that restaurant workers have come forward with tales of gross underpayment, long hours and no overtime. Last year, the Labor Department actually doled out fines to two dozen Park Slope restaurants that allegedly underpaid workers.
In the case of One Greene, waiters say they were paid $20 for a seven-hour shift — amounting to a measly $2.85 an hour — a sum far beneath the minimum wage for servers of $4.60.
When one of the waiters, Christopher Herb, alerted owner Kay Sung in late January that he had filed a formal complaint, Sung panicked and closed the restaurant the next day, going so far as to put newspaper in the windows, Herb said. Sung then claimed that she was going to close the place for good.
“I was going to close the restaurant, but I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Sung, the owner and manager of the eatery at Greene and Fulton streets. “Then I decided, ‘If I close that means I did something wrong.’ ”
Sung did admit paying sub-par wages — just not as low as what the complaints claim — but insisted her intentions were good.
“Usually when the wait staff comes in, they need cash under the table,” Sung explained. “If I put them on the payroll, they get less than what they could make. I try to help young people in the bad economy.”
Both ex-waiters also alleged that the kitchen staff was paid terrible wages — around $300 a week for 12-hour shifts, six days per week — which would work out to $4.16 an hour (The Brooklyn Paper could not confirm that allegation). Sung said the kitchen staff was paid $11 an hour.
“If they don’t make money from me, why do they stay here?” Sung pleaded, echoing the logic of many Park Slope restaurateurs during last year’s labor crackdown.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Labor confirmed that the two complaints had been received, but could not comment on when an investigation would be concluded.
Both waiters said they repeatedly complained to Sung about the low pay, but to no avail. The pair are back on the job market.
Herb, 33, moved to Brooklyn only six months ago from California. He said he took the One Greene gig out of desperation after not being able to find a job.
“It’s pretty hard [finding a job] in the winter, in this economy,” Herb said. “But this is a war I’m willing to wage. You got to stand up for what you believe in.”
But Sung felt wronged by the whole ordeal as well.
“If I did something wrong, I’ll take the penalty,” Song said. “But this really hurt me emotionally. I’ve been betrayed by people who I tried to help.”