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Medford restaurant repays $280,124 to workers

U.S. Department of Labor logo.

A Medford restaurant paid three-dozen employees a sum worth more than a quarter-million dollars surrounding close to two years worth of withheld tips and unpaid overtime.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division says that they have recovered $280,124 worth of unpaid wages for the 36 employees, according to a release issued by the government agency Friday.

Misoya Bistro paid the Wage and Hour Division the full $280,124, according to Carrie Aguilar, District Director for the Portland District Office.

“The employer has paid in full, and we’re in the process of redistributing the back wages,” Aguilar said.

The business will not pay any fines or penalties because the investigation was closed administratively when the business paid the six-figure sum.

“In this case they opted to pay via our website,” Aguilar said, describing the website as a Pay.gov portal which routed the money through the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Labor release states that investigators determined that for nearly two years, Misoya Bistro kept all employees’ cash and credit card tips except for a small amount.

“Misoya Bistro paid workers an hourly ‘tip wage’ rate that was significantly lower than the actual amount of tips the employees earned,” the release states.

The release states that investigators also determined that "several employees“ were not paid overtime after working 40 hours under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Few additional details were available because the case was resolved administratively — not in court — so there are no public documents about how or when exactly the investigation began.

Aguilar could only speak about the outcome.

Wage investigations typically start in one of two ways: either through an anonymous complaint or “directed investigations” that target industries with high amounts of low wage workers and high rates of violations, according to Aguilar.

Wage and Hour Division investigators never reveal who complained in order to protect the employee, according to Aguilar.

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Public Records Manager Kelsey Dietrick said in an email that it’s possible that the state’s Wage and Hour Division received an inquiry about unpaid tips that was referred to the U.S. Department of Labor, but the state agency does not maintain any sort of record of those types of referrals.

BOLI records show that Misoya Bistro’s only complaint was in 2014, and was related to rest and meal periods. The state agency retains those records for three years, so further details have been purged.

The Medford restaurant at 235 Theater Alley is owned by the Dae Jin Corporation, which was first incorporated by Tae C. Han of Medford, according to the state’s business registry maintained by the Oregon Secretary of State. Han was still the corporation’s president as of December 2020, but since 2014 the business registry lists Connie M. Morris & Associates and Burch’s Bookkeeping Tax Service as the corporation’s registered agents.

Tae C. Han is also listed as a representative of Bonsai Teriyaki in Ashland, which is listed in the state database as “Bonsai Teriyaki II” because the Bonsai Teriyaki & Sushi location in east Medford has a different owner.

The Ashland restaurant is owned by the Sutae Corporation, but similar to the Dae Jin Corporation the company lists Han as the president and the same bookkeeping agency as one of its registered agents.

Aguilar said that the investigation was limited only to Misoya Bistro in Medford.

According to Aguilar, restaurant employees are often low paid workers who may be unfamiliar with their legal rights regarding tips, minimum wage and overtime. She encourages anyone who believes there may be wage violations to contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Portland office at 503-326-3057 or the government’s toll-free helpline at 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-486-9243) or see dol.gov/agencies/whd.

Employees with wage or other concerns about workplace violations can also contact Oregon BOLI by visiting Oregon.gov/boli, calling 971-673-0761 or emailing help@boli.state.or.us.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com, and follow him Twitter @MTCrimeBeat. Reporter Vickie Aldous contributed to this report.