As the closing of Shohko Café approaches Saturday, the sushi restaurant’s owners and three of its employees have pending court filings against each other in a 2-year-old civil case alleging several years of unpaid overtime.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido, which is representing the workers through its United Worker Center, has filed two liens totaling $116,000 — one on April 8 and one on Wednesday — on behalf of Wilmer Alexander Gaytan, Victor Matzir and Luis Ramirez.
The action follows a ruling in February by state District Judge David Thomson awarding the workers $58,148, the amount of the first lien.
The second lien, for $57,852, was for additional damages and costs claimed in the April 2017 lawsuit. Both liens block the Fukuda family, which owns Shohko, from selling any property until the debt is paid.
Shohko has made no payments to the workers since the judge’s decision, said Emmanuelle “Neza” Leal-Sanchez, communications coordinator for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a statewide immigrant and worker’s rights organization.
The Fukudas, meanwhile, have filed a motion seeking to remove family members as debtors from the plaintiff's transcript of Thomson’s judgment, which names Fukuda Family LLC, while the transcript filed in the Santa Fe County Clerk's Office includes the names of executive chef Shohko Fukuda and her husband, Hiroyuki Fukuda.
The motion is scheduled to be heard May 28.
Along with asking the court to remove the names of Hiroyuki and Shohko Fukuda as debtors from the transcript and to “eliminate any insinuation they, individually, were parties to the lawsuit or liable on the judgment,” the motion seeks to prevent the three employees from “attempting to execute the judgment against any member of the Fukuda family.”
Shohko attorney Trent Howell declined to comment on the motion he filed on behalf of the Fukudas or the liens against them.
In a news release Thursday from Somos Un Pueblo Unido announcing the liens, Matzir said, “We will not allow our bosses to skip out on paying our hard-earned wages by closing the restaurant. The restaurant may be closing but our court approved order to recoup our stolen wages remains open.”
Thomson awarded Matzir $21,300 on unpaid wages of $7,100; Ramirez was awarded $10,798 on unpaid wages of $3,599.50; and Gaytan was awarded $26,050 on unpaid wages of $8,638.58, according to court documents.
“Business owners who engage in wage theft are still accountable under the law whether the business is open or closed,” Gabriela Ibañez Guzmán, a staff attorney with Somos, said in the news release.
“Employers who pay their workers less than the minimum wage and fail to pay overtime will be held accountable,” she added.
Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction: An early version incorrectly stated that Hiroyuki and Shohko Fukuda were named in a February court judgment that awarded the employees $58,148 for unpaid overtime, damages and costs. State District Judge David Thomson named Fukuda Family LLC in his judgment. The Fukudas were named in a transcript of the judgment the plaintiffs' attorneys filed in the Santa Fe County Clerk's Office. The Fukudas are seeking to have their names removed from the document. The error was made in editing.