Litigation Docket

Economic Justice
Chen v. TYT East Corp., (S.D.N.Y.) AALDEF represented 22 waiters and bussers in a claim for minimum wages, overtime pay, and unpaid wages against a restaurant in Chinatown. In addition, the restaurant had closed owing several weeks of pay. The corporation that was the owner of the restaurant was a wholly owned subsidiary of TYT East Corporation. TYT was the lessee of the building that housed the restaurant and had set up the restaurant and hired its general manager. TYT and the restaurant corporation had the same boards of directors. In March 2012, the Court found that TYT and the restaurant corporation were in fact a single entity and therefore TYT was responsible for the labor violations of its subsidiary. After that determination, the parties agreed on the damages owed the plaintiffs and plaintiffs were also awarded attorneys' fees in May 2013. The decision was a precedent, as the use of false subsidiaries is another ploy in employer's efforts to evade responsibility for violations of labor laws. (Co-counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell) 

Ho v. Sim Enterprises, (S.D.N.Y.) The thirteen plaintiffs in this case were garment workers in a factory in Chinatown. As in most garment factories, the plaintiffs were piece workers and a few were paid by the day. But despite regular 6 and 7 day weeks with long hours each day, no one was paid overtime. The factory changed corporate owners almost every year, but were continually managed by the same boss and supervisor. After inducing the workers to continue working with promises to pay, the boss then just closed and locked the doors. The factory closed in October 2010 still owing the workers several months of unpaid wages, estimated to be almost $120,000. In May 2014, following a trial, a Manhattan federal judge awarded the garment workers over $1.2 million in damages for unpaid minimum wage and overtime pay owed between 2005 to 2010. By the time of the judgment, the boss had fled to China and claimed he had no money. After several unsuccessful efforts to discover his assets, besides his jointly-owned home with his wife, the plaintiffs forced the boss into bankruptcy court. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the workers were able to obtain $120,000 from the boss.

Kim v. Kum Gang, Inc., (S.D.N.Y.) The plaintiffs are waiters, bussers, and a kitchen worker in one of the most popular and successful Korean restaurants in New York, Kum Gang San. Kum Gang San runs a restaurant with branches in Flushing, Queens, which includes banquet facilities and provides offsite catering, and in Manhattan on 32nd Street, in the heart of Koreatown. Both restaurants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Despite the required 12-hour shifts, the workers were not paid overtime. In addition, the restaurant took about 8 or 9% of the tips set aside for the wait staff on credit cards and an additional 10% of the tips set aside for the wait staff in the banquet halls and catering events. In 2011, the restaurant had previously been found to violate labor laws by the New York State Department of Labor for underpaying its staff in the Manhattan location and ordered to pay $1.7 million in wages and penalties. Despite these past violations, the restaurant continued its unlawful pay practices. In late 2012, the employees obtained a temporary restraining order barring the restaurant owner from retaliating against them for asserting their labor rights. After a four-day trial in March 2015, a Manhattan federal magistrate judge awarded $2.67 million in damages to the nine Korean and two Latino workers.

By the time of the judgment, the restaurants' owner, Ji Sung Yoo, had already closed the Manhattan restaurant and quickly filed for bankruptcy for his Flushing restaurant. Plaintiffs also discovered that Yoo had fraudulently transferred his interests in three properties he owned in New York in 2010 and 2011 to avoid paying his judgments to the Department of Labor. Plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit (Kim v. Yoo, S.D.N.Y.) against the restaurants' owner for fraudulent conveyances, in order to reverse these transfers and sell the properties to obtain payment of their judgment. (Co-counsel Shearman & Sterling and Latino Justice PRLDEF)

Ke et al., v. Jubao House Inc. et al. (S.D.N.Y.) This wage and hour case involved two Chinese American delivery workers who were employed by a restaurant in downtown Manhattan. The workers were grossly underpaid and subject to poor treatment. Both worked 65 to 75 hours per week, with no sick days or option to take time off, yet were paid only $1,000 per month--well under half of what they were owed under New York and federal minimum wage and overtime laws. The workers were required to purchase and maintain their own delivery bikes and were often dealt arbitrary "punishments" by their supervisors. For example, one of the plaintiffs was forced to pay $230 for an order that he was unable to deliver after being trapped in an elevator. The case settled in April 2016.

Xiao v. Finest Asian Style Cuisine Inc, et al. (E.D.N.Y.) AALDEF represented a Chinese American cashier/server who was employed by a sushi restaurant in Flushing. She worked at the restaurant for eight months, working seven days and 75 hours per week, where she was denied sick days and even meal breaks during the day. She was underpaid by over $1,300 per month and 50% of her tips were stolen. Her supervisors also engaged in arbitrary punitive behavior again her: they refused to allow her to sit down during work hours, threw her cell phone, cursed at her, and broke her lunch box. The case settled in August 2016.

Chen et al. v. Little Neck Fun Inc. et al. (E.D.N.Y.) The plaintiffs in this case are four Chinese American restaurant workers, three waiters and one busser, at a popular restaurant in Little Neck, New York. The busser worked "off the books" and was paid all in cash, working 67 hours a week at an effective rate of $6.90 per hour, without any overtime pay. The waiters were paid the tipped minimum and overtime wages, yet were forced to sign--as a condition of employment--a contract to surrender 10% of their tips to management, costing each of them thousands of dollars per year. AALDEF is seeking to recover the workers' stolen wages and tips.


Post-9/11 Civil Liberties
Al Falah Center v. Township of Bridgewater, (D.N.J.) At the end of 2010, American Muslims in central New Jersey bought a closed banquet facility in Bridgewater, New Jersey and developed plans to convert it into a mosque and community center. The mosque site was in a residential area which permitted houses of worship. However, in January 2011, before the first scheduled hearing on the mosque's construction permit, the Mayor and town officials planned to change the zoning rules. The first hearing over the mosque's construction permit had to be cancelled as an unprecedented number of people showed up in response to a Tea Party emailing suggesting the mosque may be tied to terrorism. Before the hearing could be rescheduled, the township began the process of changing the zoning for the mosque site. By April 2011, a new zoning ordinance barred the use of the site for a mosque. After fruitless settlement negotiations and discovery, Al Falah moved for preliminary injunction against the discriminatory zoning ordinance in November 2012. In September 2013, the Court held for the plaintiffs and enjoined the township from enforcing its new ordinance against Al Falah. The case was settled in December 2014, allowing Al Falah to proceed with its plans to build the first mosque in Bridgewater Township. (Co-counsel Arnold & Porter, the Brennan Center)


Immigrants' Rights
Badrawi vs. Dept. of Homeland Security 
(D.Conn.). AALDEF represents a Middle Eastern immigrant who was unlawfully arrested, placed into removal proceedings, jailed, held for two months, and ultimately removed from the United States despite still being in legal status. On April 12, 2011, the federal district court ruled that the government may not arrest H-1B employees whose extension applications were filed on time and still pending in a 56-page opinion. The Court found that a federal regulation allows H-1B immigrants to continue working for 240 days pending the adjudication of their extension applications. (Co-counsel Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic) 


Educational Equity
Complaints filed on behalf of Milena Clarke with Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (Philadelphia) and Department of Justice.
Milena Clarke is a former middle school student in Russell Middle School of the Russell Independent School District (RISD) in Russell, Kentucky. While participating in RISD's basketball program, Milena was racially harassed by teammates who used ethnic slurs against her and Milena's African American friends from other schools. The harassment extended to school hallways and even became physical. Milena's coaches were made aware of the harassment but did not intervene, even as it persisted for nearly 2 years. School officials took steps to penalize Milena and her family for speaking up. AALDEF filed complaints with U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the complaint. 

Complaints filed with Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (Dallas) and Department of Justice on behalf of English language learner students and limited English proficient parents in New Orleans.
In conjunction with the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA), AALDEF filed complaints with U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the Recovery School District (RSD) violated Title VI in failing to meet the language needs of Asian American and Latino limited-English proficient students. District-wide, these students and their families have been underserved, severely damaging their quality of education and putting them at a huge disadvantage to attaining success in their schools. The U.S. Department of Education investigated the complaint.


Anti-Trafficking Initiative
David v. Signal, (E.D. La). AALDEF represents 12 Indian H-2B workers in an action against their former employer, Signal International, and its labor recruiters and attorneys for human trafficking, involuntary servitude, discrimination, and civil RICO violations. Signal claims that a labor shortage after Hurricane Katrina forced it to recruit workers from India to work as welders and fitters at its shipbuilding facilities in the Gulf region. The suit alleges that as part of the recruitment process, the workers were promised green cards if they took the job at Signal. The workers each paid approximately $10,000 to $20,000 for the opportunity, only to realize upon their arrival to the United States that the promises of green cards were false. AALDEF also represents the Plaintiff-Intervenor workers in EEOC v. Signal, (E.D. La). Additional suits on behalf of workers were filed against Signal in May and August of 2013. After a four-week jury trial, five Signal workers were awarded $14 million in compensatory and punitive damages. (Co-counsel Crowell & Moring LLP, Southern Poverty Law Center, and ACLU with Louisiana Justice Institute, local counsel)


Voting Rights
OCA-Greater Houston v. State of Texas (W.D. TX). In Aug. 2015, an Indian American voter, Mallika Das, and OCA-Greater Houston sued the State of Texas, the Williamson County Elections Department, and the City of Round Rock for denying Asian American voters with limited English proficiency the right to an assistor of choice, in violation of section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. The Texas federal district court in Aug. 2016 ruled that of the Texas Election Code violated the Voting Rights Act because it restricted interpreters to individuals registered to vote in the same county as the voter needing assistance. (Co-counsel Fish & Richardson)

Alliance of South Asian American Labor v. The Board of Elections in the City of New York, (E.D.N.Y.) In 2013, AALDEF filed a lawsuit under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act against the NYC Board of Elections for failure to provide adequate Bengali language assistance. In March 2014, the case was resolved. The Board has since provided Bengali ballots in Queens. (Co-counsel Weil, Gotshal & Manges)

Favors v. Cuomo, (E.D.N.Y.) AALDEF filed a Complaint-In-Intervention on behalf of four Asian American voters urging the Brooklyn federal court to adopt a redistricting plan that provides Asian Americans in New York with equal political representation. AALDEF's complaint requested that an independent party or "Special Master" be appointed to redraw districts immediately. The judge ruled in favor. AALDEF submitted the Unity Map, its redistricting plan to protect the voting rights of Asian Americans and other communities of color, to the Special Master, including detailed neighborhood maps, ethnic data, and communities of interest surveys. The Court adopted a configuration identical to the Unity Map for New York City's congressional districts, which included a district in Queens which was 40% Asian American. The same district ultimately elected Grace Meng, the first ever Asian American to Congress from New York State. (Co-counsel Kaye Scholer)


Amicus Briefs
Lee v. Tam & Matal v. Tam. AALDEF joined an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of respondent Simon Tam, founder of an Asian American band named The Slants. Tam's request for a trademark was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under a provision of the trademark law that prohibits the registration of "disparaging" marks. Tam claimed that the law improperly discriminates against viewpoints protected by the First Amendment, including their reappropriation of a racial slur to empower the Asian American community. In June 2017, the Supreme Court ruled against the government, deciding that the federal trademark law's disparagement clause was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment's Free Speech clause and that The Slants were entitled to trademark their name.(ACLU)


Darweesh v. Trump (EDNY 2017). AALDEF joined the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality and several civil rights organizations in an amicus brief in support of the challenge to the Trump administration's Executive Order 13769. This Jan. 27, 2017 order suspended U.S. refugee admissions for 120 days, indefinitely halted the admissions of Syrian refugees, and banned immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. AALDEF filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 28 Asian American groups urging the Court to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allows the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to ensure that any proposed new voting rules do not discriminate against or disenfranchise minority voters. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula for Section 5 preclearance, Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, in a 5-4 decision. (Co-counsel Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe)

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Fisher is one of the most critical cases upholding the right of colleges to adopt affirmative action plans to ensure that students can benefit from a diverse and integrated student body. AALDEF has filed three amicus briefs: when the case first reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 (Fisher I), on remand to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013, and again in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 (Fisher II).

Most recently, AALDEF filed an amicus brief in support of UT-Austin in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (APAC) and the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) at UT-Austin, 18 other Asian American groups, and 44 individuals, including higher education officials and professors of law, education, and Asian American studies. In June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of UT-Austin's consideration of race as part of the holistic review of applicants in the admissions process. AALDEFs amicus brief was cited in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, which noted that the petitioner's assertion that the university discriminates against Asian Americans is "entirely unsupported by evidence in the record or empirical data." (Co-counsel Foley Hoag)

United States v. Texas. In May 2016, AALDEF joined 325 civil rights, labor and immigrant rights' groups in filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the injunction against President Obama's immigration executive actions announced in November 2014. In a 4-4 vote on June 23, 2016, the Court let stand a lower court decision upholding the nationwide injunction against the administration's immigration actions to expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protected undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, and granted deferred action to the parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders (DAPA). While setting no precedent, this "non-decision" effectively blocks the administration's new DAPA initiative and its expansion of the original DACA program. The case will ultimately make its way back to the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas.

Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. AALDEF filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the legality of Arizona's Proposition 200, the state's restrictive voter registration law. AALDEF argued that Proposition 200 unfairly burdened naturalized citizens, who make up almost 40% of the state's Asian American population. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Arizona's Proposition 200, the state's restrictive voter registration law, in a 7-2 decision. (Co-counsel Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy)

Applewhite v. Pennsylvania. AALDEF and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA) of Pennsylvania filed an amicus brief in the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's restrictive voter ID requirement in 2012. AALDEF's amicus brief demonstrated that Pennsylvania's new photo ID requirements would have discriminatory impacts on Asian American voters. The brief detailed findings from election monitoring data compiled by AALDEF and other Asian American groups over the last decade. A preliminary injunction was issued on October 2, 2012, blocking the voter ID law from going into effect for the November 2012 election for voters casting ballots in person. In 2013, AALDEF and APABA-PA filed a second amicus brief in the trial for permanent injunction, which began in July 2013. (Co-counsel White & Case)

Perry v. Perez. AALDEF filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a Texas federal district court's interim redistricting plan after the Department of Justice contended that the Texas state legislature's plan diluted the voting power of Asian Americans and other people of color. Following a trial in January 2012, the three-judge district court in Washington, DC denied Section 5 preclearance on August 28, 2012 in a lengthy and mostly unanimous opinion. In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow Texas to put its congressional, state senate and state house redistricting plans into effect because they have not been precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. (Co-counsel Kaye Scholer)

Garden State Equality v. Dow, (N.J.) AALDEF and other civil rights groups joined in an amicus brief challenging the discriminatory treatment of same-sex marriages in New Jersey. In 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court's decision found that the limited civil unions of same-sex couples were discriminatory and enjoined New Jersey to allow gay and lesbian marriages.

Mitchell v. Felker, (E.D.Ca.) AALDEF joined other civil rights and prisoner rights groups in an amicus brief in the Eastern District of California. California prisons placed all members of racial or ethnic groups in lockdowns that can last months or years. The placement is not based on an individual's activities or gang allegiances, but solely on race or ethnicity. The amicus brief supports plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction barring such practices.