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A Popular LA Korean Barbecue Restaurant Is Fined $66K for Wage Theft

The U.S. Department of Labor found that Oo-Kook Korean BBQ allowed a manager to take part in an employee tip pool

Hanjip Culver City Korean Chronicles
Korean barbecue with banchan.
Wonho Frank Lee
Cathy Chaplin is a senior editor at Eater LA, a James Beard Award–nominated journalist, and the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles.

A recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the popular all-you-can-eat Koreatown restaurant Oo-Kook Korean BBQ violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by allowing a manager to participate in the employee tip pool. The manager took more than $28,000 in tips that should have gone to workers.

As a result of the investigation, Oo-Kook’s owners will pay $28,213 in unpaid tips for 35 workers, $28,213 in “liquidated damages” for those employees, and a civil penalty of $10,103 “given the employer’s history of violations.”

A previous investigation of the restaurant in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor resulted in $5,300 in back wages for 14 workers, while an investigation in 2020 found an employee at a La Mirada location was owed more than $16,000.

The latest investigation is part of a cross-regional initiative by the U.S. Department of Labor that “aims to advance workplace equity and reach essential workers through collaboration with local stakeholders.” According to the release, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance played a “critical role” in the investigation’s findings.