Eight California car washes, including two in Venice and Santa Monica, have agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged they had underpaid workers, denied rest and meal breaks, and created false records of time worked.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed the civil lawsuit in October 2010 against the then Marina Car Wash in Venice, Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, and six other car washes across the state.
“Workers at these car washes were taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers who illegally denied them the pay and benefits they earned,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “I am pleased that the resolution of this case will allow workers to receive the pay they are owed.”
Investigators interviewed more than 80 workers and found the car washes allegedly routinely denied workers minimum wage and overtime, failed to pay wages owed to those who quit or were terminated, denied rest and meal breaks, and created false records of time worked.
The car washes required employees to report to work several hours in advance and to be available, without pay, until business picked up, according to the complaint. When workers were paid, many received paychecks that could not be cashed because of insufficient company funds, the complaint said.
The car washes operated for years without licenses from the Labor Commissioner, which are required under California law, the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit was filed against the eight car washes and Dipu Haque Sikder, who spearheaded the business.
The suit sought lost wages and civil penalties, and an injunction to prevent the defendants from committing similar violations in the future.
In addition to the $1 million in restitution of unpaid wages and civil penalties, the car washes are required to pay $50,000 in employment taxes, a spokesperson for Harris said.