Nepali Describes Harsh Conditions, Wage Theft at Long Island Indian Restaurant

Rabin Kumar Biswokarma said he was underpaid as a kitchen assistant at Long Island's Masala Wok & Grill. (Photo via The South Asian Times)

A Nepali immigrant prep cook says that he was forced to work long hours for little or no pay, and was essentially imprisoned in group housing on Long Island while working at an Indian fusion restaurant in Selden, The South Asian Times reported.

Rabin Kumar Biswokarma filed a complaint against Masala Wok & Grill, accusing its owners, Shivaji Pathak and “Tony Malik,” of creating cruel working conditions and perpetrating serious labor violations. Biswokarma was hired as a kitchen assistant at the restaurant last year, and he says he was forced to live in unsafe group housing with other members of the staff. He recalls spending 10 to 12 hours a day chopping meat and vegetables for 21 consecutive days, and says that he was denied medical attention after he injured his hand with a knife.

Though Biswokarma had been promised a salary of at least $500 a week, Pathak and Malik gradually lowered his pay week by week, paying him as little as $100 a week and eventually paid him nothing at all. Because Masala Wok & Grill is located in Selden, a Suffolk County town located hours from New York City, Pathak and Malik essentially forced Biswokarma to choose between homelessness or working indefinitely for little or no pay.

He is represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Biswokarma’s complaint, filed on March 30th in New York Supreme Court, Suffolk County, alleges violations of both New York state and federal laws, including unpaid wages, minimum wage, overtime and spread of hours, against Pathak, Malik, and Tonimil Inc., the corporate name of Masala Wok & Grill. His complaint further alleges fraud based upon the false representations that Pathak and Malik made while hiring and continuing to employ Biswokarma.

Biswokarma left his job at the restaurant in October of 2011.

“People must be free to work without being oppressed,” Biswokarma told the South Asian Times. “I want to speak out against the way I was treated. I am filing this complaint because I don’t want other people to be entrapped by these restaurant owners.”

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