Maids Fired for Cooperating in Wage Theft Investigation; Company Hit with Fines

Apr 15 2014 - Compensation, Minimum Wage, Overtime - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

California’s Labor Commissioner Julie Su recently fined a maid service company $394,944 in unpaid wages and premiums to be paid back to affected workers, plus civil penalties. After a lengthy investigation, the Labor Commissioner determined that 18 employees were not paid for all hours of work and were not provided meal or rest periods.

The Labor Commissioner launched an investigation after receiving an anonymous complaint alleging wage theft at the business. For instance, the employees worked 10-hour days but were paid only for eight hours.

According to the Labor Commissioner, three of the workers were fired in retaliation for cooperating with the investigation. The Labor Commissioner ordered reinstatement for these three workers and pay for lost hours while wrongfully terminated.

Fighting wage theft has been flagged as a top priority by the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), which defends and enforces workplace rights, and the Labor Commissioner, which enforces the state Labor Code and Wage Orders. The Labor Commissioner’s office, also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), is a division of the DIR.

“Employers in all industries must comply with the law and pay workers according to the work they have performed,” Christine Baker, director of the DIR, said in a statement. “Wage theft not only harms the workers who are denied their hard-earned pay, it also impacts all law-abiding business who treat their employees fairly.”

The three workers fired for participating in the Labor Commissioner’s inspection and related interviews became a key part of the investigation. The Labor Commissioner ordered the employer to:

  • Immediately reinstate these workers;
  • Pay the workers a combined $6,200 for wages lost while unlawfully discharged;
  • Acknowledge the workers’ right to pursue additional wages for unpaid overtime and missed meal and rest periods; and
  • Post a notice to all employees admitting the retaliation and agreement to compensate the workers for their losses.

“Our swift response to the retaliation demonstrates our commitment to protecting workers who speak out and cooperate in order for us to conduct a meaningful inspection,” added Labor Commissioner Su. “The retaliation investigations were completed within a month of the terminations.”

Other citations issued to the owners of the maid service include:

  • Minimum wage violations totaling $208,107;
  • Rest period premiums of $69,172;
  • Unpaid meal period premiums of $28,634;
  • Unpaid overtime amounting to $89,030; and
  • Civil penalties in the amount of $61,200 in for additional violations including failure to provide employees with itemized wage statements as required by law.

Among its wide-ranging enforcement responsibilities, 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 employment laws.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

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