California Wage Theft Case Leads to Landmark Criminal Conviction

Dec 21 2016 - Compensation - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

wage theft restaurant owner conviction

A San Diego restaurant owner was sentenced to two years of jail time for grand theft and labor violations.

The California Labor Commissioner’s office has announced that a San Diego restaurant wage theft investigation resulted in the restaurant owner’s conviction and two years of jail time for grand theft and labor violations. It is the first criminal jury trial conviction in California for felony grand wage theft by false pretenses.

In addition, the owner must repay $20,000 in wages and tips.

According to the Labor Commissioner, evidence presented to the court revealed that the owner targeted immigrant workers. The workers were promised wages but often paid only tips and some kitchen staff made as little as $4 an hour. The owner also collected a portion of tips from unpaid workers and charged them $5 a shift for “glass breakage.”

“Our investigation uncovered egregious wage theft and worker abuse – our collaboration with the San Diego District Attorney has resulted in the first criminal conviction of its kind in our state,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “California will continue to hold the line in ensuring that workers’ rights are protected.”

The owner was convicted of two felony counts of grand theft of labor for failing to pay workers as promised, one felony count of grand theft of tips and six misdemeanor charges, including two for refusing to pay wages when she had the ability to do so and four for failing to provide itemized wage statements.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office inspects workplaces for wage and hour violations, adjudicates wage claims, enforces prevailing wage rates and apprenticeship standards in public works projects, investigates retaliation complaints, issues licenses and registrations for businesses and educates the public on labor laws.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

Compliance with California’s increasingly complex labor laws can be tough and can result in stiff fines and even criminal charges.  For more information on Pay and Scheduling and other topics, please visit HRCalifornia’s HR Library. Not a member? Learn more about what HRCalifornia can do for you.

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