When it was time for Plaintiff and Epicurean worker Marvin Hercules to go to Court and testify, Epicurean owner Chang Wook Chon gave him a map with directions and pointed him to the door with one final piece of information: a job may no longer be waiting for you when you come back from Court.
Last Tuesday, at a hearing in relation to the closed 2010 case against Epicurean filed by 14 workers, District Judge Robert Wilkins ordered a show cause indicting Chon of criminal contempt. In early November, this alleged criminal contempt will place Chon in front of the United States Attorney Robert Machen‘s office.
Attorney for Plaintiffs in both the 2010 and 2012 cases Darian Dalmat believes Judge Welkin’s decision comes with great purpose. ”I think that the Judge very appropriately sent a strong signal to Mr. Chon that he is not above the law and that even those these workers may not have the biggest case of all time, that they do have rights under the law,” he said. “Mr. Chon’s interference with that opportunity is not going to be countenanced in this court, at least.”
The more recent lawsuit settled claims for three different workers. In the 2012 case, workers accused Chon of failing to pay overtime wages. The 2010 lawsuit dealt with claims for several workers, most of which were settled without a formal trial.
During the 2010 lawsuit, Chon did not go through appropriate legal avenues to settle the case. “Mr. Chon was just completely unwilling to allow people their day in court and allow them to litigate their claims fairly and use the judicial process that has been set up for employees to vindicate their rights to overtime wages,” Dalmat said.
Judge Welkins, according to Dalmat, found the evidence “on his own accord” compelling enough to indite Chon and send him to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The attorneys did not request for criminal indictment.
Chon’s intimidation practices were not exclusive to preventing his employees from going to Court. At the hearing on Tuesday, workers testified that Chon threatened to call the immigration authorities during the Court proceedings. Others stated that permanent jobs were promised if the worker agreed not to go to Court and pursue legal retribution.
Chon and his attorneys will face the U.S. Attorney’s office on November 6, where a trial date will be set to give Chon the opportunity to respond to this accusation of criminal conduct.