Investigation: Medford restaurant stole workers' tips

Nov. 3—A federal agency has recovered $375,233 in wages and damages for 11 workers at a Medford restaurant that kept servers' tips, threatened to fire employees if they kept cash tips and failed to pay overtime to kitchen workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division said Bonsai Teriyaki, operating as Bonsai Teriyaki and Sushi, collected and withheld cash and credit card tips earned by seven servers — and warned them they'd be fired if they failed to surrender cash tips.

The employer also illegally denied four cooks and sushi chefs overtime wages by misapplying rules that exempt salaried workers from overtime rules, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

Bonsai Teriyaki's actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the department said.

"Wage theft is a serious concern for restaurant industry workers — often low-wage earners who are vulnerable and reluctant to complain," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar. "Our investigation found Bonsai Teriyaki and Sushi withheld hard-earned wages from servers deliberately and denied overtime pay to others."

She said the outcome of the investigation shows the department will defend workers' rights and hold employers responsible if they cheat workers.

The division's investigation recovered $187,616 in back wages and $187,616 in damages for the workers. The affected employees stand to recover between $16,000 and $93,000 in back wages and damages. The division also assessed $5,091 in civil penalties for the willful nature of the violations, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

In 2021, the department recovered $280,124 in unpaid wages for 36 employees of the Medford restaurant Misoya Bistro.

Investigators said Misoya Bistro kept workers' cash and credit card tips, except for a small amount, for nearly two years. The restaurant paid workers an hourly "tip wage" rate that was significantly lower than the actual tips customers left for workers, investigators said.

Misoya Bistro also failed to pay overtime to several workers, investigators said.

The Wage and Hour Division protects workers against retaliation and has regulations that also prohibit harassment, intimidation or adverse actions against employees that assert their worker rights.

To file an online complaint, see

Workers and employers with questions can contact the division's toll-free helpline at 1-866-487-9243.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.