$1 Million Los Angeles Wage Theft Scheme Alleged by Three Restaurants

Owners of Southern California Thai restaurants have been cited for  Los Angeles wage theft, allegedly depriving workers of more than $1 million in wages, according to state labor regulators. The companies are accused of failure to pay minimum wage (less than $5 hourly versus the state minimum of $11) and frequently requiring them to work 10 hour shift without ensuring each were granted state-mandated work breaks.wage theft attorney Los Angeles

Nearly two dozen workers at these restaurants – located in Baldwin Park, Arcadia and North Hollywood – reportedly were paid a flat rate of $50 for a standard 10- to 11.5-hour shift. The California Department of Industrial Relations, which began investigating the trio of restaurants in August of last year, reported at no time during these shifts were workers given the opportunity to eat a meal or sometimes even just sit down for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, as our Los Angeles wage theft attorneys are all too keenly aware, wage theft in Southern California is rampant. The state DIR reports there were more than 34,000 wage theft complaints just last year alone – but that is widely speculated to be a very low estimate. It’s not unreasonable to presume that for every case of California wage theft that’s reported, there are probably a dozen more than aren’t. This is especially true when we factor in undocumented workers, particularly since this White House has assumed power, with raids often targeting the least vulnerable rather than the companies that hire them.

California Wage Theft Protections

The good news is a number of recent measures in this state boost the likelihood that workers can collect unpaid wages. In 2015, S.B. 588 was signed off by the governor and provided an avenue whereby regulators could act on behalf of cheated workers to impose property liens and levy bank accounts of employers who refused to pony up for unpaid wages judgments.

At the start of this year, S.B. 306 took effect, allowing the state labor commissioner to initiate employer investigations without a formal complaint if there is suspicion of retaliation during a wage theft inquiry. If violations are discovered, it can cost unscrupulous employers $100 daily (up to $20,000).

On top of that, certain municipalities have taken it upon themselves to initiate their own wage standards. Los Angeles, for instance, founded the Office of Wage Standards, which mandates a minimum wage of $15 hourly, or $12 hourly for companies with 25 or fewer employees. This agency, like many others formed by city and county governments, have added wage theft divisions to the operations.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak to a wage theft attorney who will be solely interested in representing your rights.

Restaurant Worker Wage Theft in L.A. Area

The most recent of violations to arise reportedly involved what the state Labor Commissioner referred to as “classic examples of wage theft,” wherein employers scrape a profit off the top by breaching state and local wage laws.

The North Hollywood restaurant was fined nearly $834,000, of which about $708,000 was to be paid among nine employees (whose positions entitled them to the $12-hour minimum wage), and the rest due in the form of civil penalties. As one worker explained, he initially felt fortunate just to have a job. However, he soon recognized the employer’s “greed” and the fact that he was being “taken advantage of.”
Employers in these cases, who were found jointly and individually liable, are reportedly appealing the fines.
Restaurant workers especially may be vulnerable to wage theft victimization. This summer, the state commissioner reported some 600 janitorial workers at a large chain restaurant in seven cities were systematically deprived of some $4.8 million in wages, collectively.
Other at-risk workers include those in various service industries, including caregiving, construction, carwashing and garment contractors. Of the 500 largest companies responsible for some $8.8 billion in wage theft in the last 18 years, California was the site of half of them. Our wage theft attorneys in Los Angeles are here to help.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

3 Thai restaurants in Los Angeles area cited for more than $1 million in wage theft, Oct. 4, 2018, By Kevin Smith, Orange County Register

More Blog Entries:

CA Court: Wage Theft Penalties, Fees Owed by Business Agents, Oct. 6, 2018, Los Angeles Wage Theft Attorney Blog