LOS ANGELES – On November 27, 2018, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office announced that workers at Silver Lake Car Wash and Catalina Car Wash who were allegedly deprived of minimum wages, overtime and rest breaks on a routine basis will receive more than a million dollars in wage restitution. The city attorney’s office also reports that workers were allegedly subjected to intimidation and witness tampering throughout the course of the litigation. The settlement is the result of a work done by the city attorney’s office, the criminal investigation unit of the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, the Bet Tzedek Employment Rights Project, and the Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), a non-profit community organization that advocates for the rights of car wash workers and other low-wage workers in the Los Angeles area.
“This is a big win for these employees who are simply trying to support themselves, and perhaps their families,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “There is a definite need for state labor investigators to protect hardworking employees and investigate wrong-doing by employers or supervisors.”
Under the terms of the Stipulated Final Judgement, Silver Lake Car Wash, Inc., Catalina Car Wash, Inc., and the primary supervisor at the two car washes, Yoosef Aminpour, have agreed to pay $1,084,972 in restitution to qualified individuals employed at the car washes from January 18, 2014 to June 30, 2018. Qualified employees will be contacted and instructed on how to submit a claim. The defendants have also agreed to pay $519,027 in civil penalties, as well as $35,996 in litigation costs to the City Attorney’s Office.
Defendants will also be placed under a four-year injunction requiring complete compliance with all applicable wage-and-hour laws and regulations including mandatory meal and rest breaks for all employees; providing all necessary equipment to perform job responsibilities including boots and gloves; adopting accurate time keeping procedures for employees; and providing a regular bi-weekly pay schedule with itemized statements on each paycheck.
The operative complaint alleged that Silver Lake Car Wash, located at 3595 Beverly Boulevard, and Catalina Car Wash, located at 4000 Beverly Boulevard, paid its workers a daily rate as low as $45 dollars per day for 10 hours or more of work—effectively a $4.50 per hour rate, well below the applicable minimum wage, and with no overtime. On certain occasions where the car wash facilities shut down early for lack of customers, employees were allegedly not paid anything.
The lawsuit further alleged that Silver Lake Car Wash and Catalina Car Wash falsified payroll records in order to underreport employee work hours and short their pay, and that the car washes attempted to tamper with witnesses and secure false testimony in the litigation, including by threatening and/or bribing employees. The car washes would also allegedly fail to give rest or meal breaks to their employees. Additionally, the car washes allegedly did not provide proper safety equipment, forcing some workers to buy their own gloves and boots.