Tank Noodle staff gets $700,000 in back pay after Labor Dept. probe

The North Side Vietnamese restaurant was found to have violated federal law on wages and overtime.

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Tank Noodle a Vietnamese restaurant located at 4953-55 N. Broadway Ave. in the Uptown neighborhood, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Tank Noodle a Vietnamese restaurant located at 4953-55 N. Broadway Ave. in the Uptown neighborhood, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A North Side Vietnamese restaurant, whose owners faced public ridicule after attending the Jan. 6 rally for then-President Donald Trump that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, has been forced to pay workers nearly $700,000 in back wages, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday.

The agency said it recovered the money for 60 employees of Tank Noodle, 4953 N. Broadway. It said the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act in several ways, including having some servers work only for tips.

Scott Allen, a spokesman for the Labor Department, said the investigation covered the restaurant’s activities from January 2018 to January 2020. He said Tank Noodle agreed to restitution last December and that “a good portion” of the workers have received their money. The Labor Department is still seeking contact with other workers, he said.

The agency said some people were owed more than $10,000, with the total liability being $697,295. It said Tank Noodle’s transgressions included letting managers have a cut of shared tips and paying workers a flat daily rate regardless of the hours worked, an arrangement that denied them overtime.

The restaurant is owned by the Ly family, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday. According to social media posts, family members attended the Trump rally that presaged the storming of the Capitol. Thien Ly, a Tank Noodle manager and a family member, told ABC7 Chicago that he took his parents to the rally and that they left, having no idea others in the crowd moved on to commit violence.

Ly told the station family members had received hate mail and death threats for supporting Trump. The business appears to have taken down its social media links.

Federal records show Tank Noodle received $163,557 in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program last May to retain 30 jobs.

Allen said that money had no role in the Labor Department probe.

The agency said the restaurant failed to keep accurate payroll records, as federal law requires, but that investigators interviewed current and former employees to estimate back pay.

“Failing to accurately record the hours employees work does not prevent a federal investigation, the discovery of violations and ultimately, back wage recovery,” said Thomas Gauza, district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Chicago. “This case shows that employers that attempt to gain an unfair competitive advantage by flouting the law will be held accountable.”

The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol occurred as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden as having defeated Trump in the presidential election.

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