Typhoon!, the Portland-based family of Thai restaurants with a location in downtown Bend, is currently under investigation due to workers' complaints of discrimination. Among these complaints are that owners Steve and Bo Kline recruited workers from Thailand, paid them at a lower hourly wage, denied raises, provided less vacation time and forced them to work longer hours than other U.S.-hired employees.
We just received a press release from Bureau of Labor and Industries State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who initiated the investigation. Avakian states in the press release, "The concerns that have been raised to me about working conditions at Typhoon are alarming." According to the press release, workers alleged that they were threatened with termination if they did not comply with the substandard treatment.The Klines have vigorously denied the charges. Steve Kline was quoted in a Bend Bulletin article on Wednesday, says he is "furious" and that the allegations were an "astounding litany of lies."
The article also quotes the Klines as saying that one of alleged victims, a chef at the restaurant, drew a $40,000 per year salary and that her husband made $10 an hour plus tips, enough to afford them a comfortable lifestyle.
The Klines have become well-known restaurateurs in Oregon. They opened Typhoon! and Bo Asian Bistro in the Portland area and outposts of both eateries in Bend. They also run a successful catering business.
It's not the first time that Typhoon! has faced allegations of employment - discrimination a similar investigation in 2002 over allegedly unpaid overtime resulted in a $170,000 settlement from Typhoon, without any acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The formal complaint from Avakian is the first step in the investigation into Typhoon! and does not speak to the accuracy of the claims which will be vetted in the ensuing investigation, according to BOLI. However, Avakian appears to be taking the case seriously. "The concerns that have been raised to me about working conditions at Typhoon are alarming," Avakain wrote in a press release issued Wednesday morning.
However, it remains to be determined whether or not the claims are factual.