California Labor Commissioner Cites Employer More than $800,000 for “Wage Theft” Violations

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California Labor Commissioner Cites Employer More than $800,000 for “Wage Theft” Violations

Per the Labor Commissioner’s Office, it cited Torrance Car Wash more than $800,000 for wage theft violations affecting 35 workers, including minimum wage, overtime and contract wage violations.  An investigation found that some workers worked beyond 80 hours per pay period, but received pay for approximately 80 hours no matter how many hours worked. Others who reported to work on time were made to wait before punching in and not paid for that time.

“The business owners violated labor laws to avoid paying workers the wages they were owed and refused to cooperate with our investigation by withholding documents during our inspection,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “My office had to get additional warrants to conduct our inspection of the business.”

The Labor Commissioner’s Office opened an investigation into Torrance Carwash Inc. dba Torrance Car Wash after receiving a referral from the CLEAN Car Wash Campaign. Investigators attempted to conduct an inspection on March 4, 2021, but were refused entry to view records, despite having an inspection warrant signed by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge requiring access to the company’s payroll records and employee-related documents. Onsite inspections were conducted the following week with additional warrants.

The audit of payroll records from April 9, 2018 to March 7, 2021 determined that the employer failed to pay workers for all of the hours worked, did not pay workers for waiting times, and did not provide workers with required meal and rest breaks.

The citations, penalties and interest issued total $815,311 of which $746,061 is payable to workers for unpaid minimum wages and overtime, liquidated damages, waiting time penalties, meal and rest period premiums, penalties for the employer’s failure to pay the workers with itemized wage statements, unpaid contract wages and accrued interest.

The citations issued to Torrance Carwash, Inc., manager Jesus Hernandez, and owners Susan Amini and Reza Albolahrar also include civil penalties of $69,250 for failing to pay minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest premiums, and failure to issue proper itemized wage statements. Civil penalties collected are transferred to the State’s general fund as required by law.

Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime, and other labor law violations, and to calculate payments owed and penalties due. When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid minimum wages plus interest.

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