New Haven Deli Owner Facing 50 Counts of Labor Violations

The owner of two New Haven delis has been charged with more than 50 counts of labor violations after reportedly failing to properly pay his employees and document their earnings, according to two warrants for his arrest.

Chang Cho, 50, of Woodbridge, was arrested Feb. 20 following a months-long state Department of Labor investigation. Cho operates two Gourmet Heaven locations at 15 Broadway and 44 Whitney Avenue in New Haven.

Investigators found in August that 15 first-shift workers were being treated as contractors rather than full-time direct hires. Some admitted to working overtime without being properly paid for it, according to the Dept. of Labor. Records and time sheets were also found to be missing.

The violations occurred continuously over a period of 2-4 years and continued even after Cho received citations from the Dept. of Labor in October, investigators said.

Both locations were issued “stop work” orders in August and protesters began to picket outside the Broadway store. The restaurants closed briefly but reopened after being granted conditional release.

A manager reportedly told one employee who attended an Unidad Latina en Accion meeting in November, “If you go again the boss will be very mad and will say, ‘There is no work for you,’ and, ‘If you say nothing, you’ll be fine,’” according to one of the arrest warrants.

The Dept. of Labor received wage complaints from Cho’s employees as recently as January, the warrant says. Investigators found that one employee was owed more than $2,000 in wages and $114 in interest and another was due $1,400 in wages and $44 in interest.

According to the second warrant, Cho agreed to pay the Dept. of Labor $140,000 in wages for his employees and $10,200 in civil penalties in three monthly installments of roughly $50,000 each, beginning in November.

The warrant says Cho made one payment of $50,000 and had no further contact with the Dept. of Labor.

At the time of his arrest, Cho still owed 21 employees about $200,000 altogether, the warrant says.

Cho was charged with a total of 22 counts of failure to pay wages, 21 counts of defrauding immigrant workers, five counts of failure to keep accurate records and five counts of failure to pay overtime.

He was arrested Feb. 20 and was released after posting $5,000 bond, court records show. Cho is due back in court March 4.

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