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¡No Se Deje!
Because carwash workers are among the lowest paid, least protected and most abused and exploited employees in California; the State passed a much needed protection law in 2003. The CARWASH WORKER LAW requires carwash companies to register their businesses with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. This allows government labor agencies to create a record of violations and to put repeat offenders out of business. The law also requires carwash businesses to buy Surety Bonds as wage insurance. This insurance pays carwash employees if an employer refuses or is unable to pay the worker his salary. And, carwash businesses must contribute to a CARWASH WORKER RESTITUTION FUND. This fund is also used to pay carwash workers wages that are owed to them when an employer does not pay them. Fines that are collected from non-complying carwash businesses are also added to the CARWASH WORKER RESTITUTION FUND.
Few years back California Labor Commission investigators conducted a two day sweep of carwash businesses and issued citations resulting in more than $900,000 dollars in fines. Investigators identified 76 carwash businesses that had not registered as required. The Labor Commission reported hundreds of violations which included conspiracy to violate the law, witness tampering, grand theft, failure to pay wages, brandishing a deadly weapon, and sexual battery. Investigators cited 49 carwash businesses for not having Workers Compensation insurance.
California Labor Commissioners filed lawsuits against 9 major carwash businesses in several California Counties. And, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge issued a restraining order against four carwash businesses prohibiting them from doing business. Former State Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet said “employers who flagrantly violate labor laws and registration laws are not allowed to gain unfair business advantages in this underground economy or take advantage of employees.” She said that these businesses had all received more than one citation and that many had been fined the maximum of $10,000 dollars. She further indicated that half of these carwash businesses were not paying minimum wage and many had substandard working conditions.
The United Steel Workers Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against two brothers that owned several carwash businesses in Los Angeles. The Pirian brothers agreed to pay four workers $50,000 because they were either fired or had their wages reduced for being sympathetic to union organizers. Prosecutors filed 220 criminal charges against the Pirian brothers for illegal abuses of carwash workers. Punishment in these cases included up to 120 years in prison and $186,000 in fines.
There are approximately 20,000 carwash workers in California. Unscrupulous employers too often try to cheat them by paying them less than minimum wage, not paying them overtime, not providing safe and sanitary working conditions, Workers Compensation insurance and other benefits. Victims of these violations should contact an employment law attorney immediately. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.