Tang Dynasty, a restaurant located on West High Street in Oxford and partially managed by a Miami University sophomore, neglected to pay its employees, according to court documents and the account of a former cook.
Weiping Peng began working as a cook at the restaurant on Sept. 1, 2019. He was promised $6,000 a month, to be paid at the end of each month. Peng worked a minimum of 60 hours a week, according to court documents.
Peng was given his September wages in multiple installments. He was paid in cash and through transfers of renminbi, Chinese currency, over the Chinese social media platform WeChat. He said in China it’s normal to be paid through the app.
It’s unclear when Peng received the last of these installments. He said it was on Nov. 4, but his employer, Miami sophomore Zhenyu Tang, said it was in October. As he was paid in cash, neither has a record of the transaction, although the Ohio Revised Code 4111.08 specifies that employers must keep records of employee names, pay and hours worked.
Peng continually asked his employers — Tang, Zefreng Bing, Jingwei Wu and Ben Mou — when he would be paid for October and November’s wages.
Tang and the other owners told Peng business had been slow recently, so they didn’t have the money to pay him. Tang said Peng agreed to be paid late because he understood the restaurant wasn’t doing well financially. But, when Peng was hired, he said none of the owners mentioned anything about slow business or a lack of money.
On Oct. 22, Peng sent a WeChat message to Tang. Tang told him “We won’t get money until tomorrow. Tomorrow I will pay you.”
On Nov. 1, Peng pleaded, “Tang, you need to come at 3 p.m. to pay the September payment. I really need the money.” (These messages were originally in Chinese but have been translated to English).
Their conversation went on like this for weeks, according to messages obtained by The Miami Student. Peng continually asked Tang for payment, and Tang promised the money.
“According to the law, I know this problem is wrong,” Tang told The Student. “That’s why I talk[ed] with him personally.”
“‘I’ll give you the money later [after] a week, two weeks,’” Tang told Peng. “‘Please trust me. I will pay you.’”
According to WeChat messages between Peng and Tang, at least one of the restaurant’s other employees was also paid late.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Li Ci, the other cook at the restaurant, said through a translator that he has always been paid on time.
In mid-November, some of the employees went on strike. It’s unclear exactly which employees went on strike — Tang said it was all the employees, whereas Peng said it was the two cooks.
The restaurant was forced to close and hasn’t been able to reopen since. Peng no longer works for Tang Dynasty, and Tang said he isn’t sure if he will reopen the restaurant or sell the business.
Peng still hasn’t been fully paid for his work, a violation of the Ohio Revised Code 4113.15. Peng said he is owed a month and a half’s wages. Tang said he doesn’t know how much he owes Peng but that he was planning to pay him.
Peng filed a claim in Butler County Area 1 Court against Tang Dynasty LLC, and his case was heard on Jan. 29.
According to court documents, none of the owners came to the hearing. Tang said he was unable to attend because he was in class and that the other owners transferred to different universities and no longer live in Oxford.
The court found that Peng presented sufficient evidence to substantiate his story, so he was awarded $6,000 plus interest to be paid by the restaurant.
But Peng still hasn’t received that money. The court told him it isn’t involved with ensuring he gets paid and advised that he hire a lawyer.
“They can’t do this,” Peng told The Student through a translator. “They can’t not pay employees what they were promised.”
Additional reporting by News Editor Erin Glynn.