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October 08, 2003
Judge Awards Waitresses $3.5M in Default Judgment
A federal judge awarded two waitresses $3.5 million after the New Jersey employer they accused of subjecting them to unlawful work conditions and substandard living conditions failed to respond to a lawsuit.

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In the lawsuit, the two immigrant Chinese women alleged a Chinese restaurant paid them only in tips, forced them to pay kickbacks to their employers, and housed them in a substandard apartment, the Herald News (West Paterson, New Jersey) reports. The American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Lowenstein & Sandler co-represented the two women.

U.S. District Judge Katharine F. Hayden issued the default judgment against King Chef Buffet in Wayne, New Jersey, after the defendants failed to answer the lawsuit within 20 days, according to the newspaper.

The default judgment included compensatory and punitive damages.

In the lawsuit, the women alleged they worked 80-hour weeks without base wages or overtime pay. They also claimed that their employers housed them in an apartment that at times lacked electricity and water with as many as 12 other individuals, the newspaper reports.

Attorneys for the women say they are unsure whether they'll be able collect the judgment.

"We anticipate having problems collecting," says Alix Rubin, and attorney with Lowenstein & Sandler. "The good thing about it is, it sends a message to other restaurant owners that slave labor doesn't work in the United States."


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