Owners of Che Garibaldi Inc., which operates the Taqueria Garibaldi Mexican restaurant in Sacramento, California, have agreed to pay some $140,000 in back wages and damages for shortchanging 35 employees and attempting to use a fake priest to get them to confess to “workplace ‘sins’” while on the job following legal action by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered a supposed priest to hear their workplace ‘sins’ while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department’s investigation,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin said in a release from the DOL. “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages.”
According to the release, Che Garibaldi and owners and operators Eduardo Hernandez, Hector Manual Martinez Galindo and Alejandro Rodriguez agreed to a consent judgment ordered by Judge William B. Shubb in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to compensate the wronged employees after their workplace practices were reviewed by federal wage and hour investigators.
The use of the bogus priest, which was among several tactics the restaurant operators used to intimidate and retaliate against workers, “may be among the most shameless” the DOL said in its release.
It was alleged in court that the bogus priest encouraged workers to “get the sins out,” and questioned them about such things as stealing on the job, being late for work,” if they had done anything to harm their employer or if they had bad intentions toward their employer,” the release said.
Investigators found that employees of Taqueria Garibaldi were denied overtime pay for work done above the 40-hour week in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
“They also learned the employer paid managers from the employee tip pool illegally, threatened employees with retaliation and adverse immigration consequences for cooperating with the department, and fired one worker who they believed had complained to the department,” the DOL said.
The $140,000 the restaurant operators agreed to pay included $70,000 in back wages and $70,000 in damages. The restaurant was also ordered to pay the $5,000 in civil penalties “due to the willful nature of their violations.”
“The U.S. Department of Labor and its Solicitor’s Office will not tolerate workplace retaliation and will act swiftly to make clear that immigration status has no bearing on workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Pilotin explained.
Shubb further ordered the restaurant owners “not to take any action to stop employees from asserting their rights, interfere with any department investigation, or terminate, threaten or discriminate against any employee perceived to have spoken with investigators” the release noted.
It was also stated in the judgement that if Taqueria Garibaldi fails to compensate their wronged workers on time, they will have to pay a post-judgement interest rate of 10% annually following written notice and a 30-day period to make the late payments.