More than $2.3 million in wage theft citations were issued to a Culver City car wash for failing to properly pay or provide required breaks to 64 workers, the state Labor Commissioner's Office announced Wednesday.
An investigation at Playa Vista Car Wash uncovered a variety of wage theft practices that are common in the car wash industry, according to labor regulators, who said the citations are the largest issued to date against a car wash business by the Labor Commissioner's Office.
According to the Labor Commissioner's Office, workers were required to report to an alley next to the car wash 30 minutes before the business opened to be selected to work that day and those not selected were typically sent home several hours later without being paid for the waiting time. Workers were also frequently required to take extended lunch breaks with no split shift premium, or worked up to 10 hours a day with no overtime pay, the regulators determined. They also alleged that managers regularly altered workers' time cards to reduce total hours worked.
"Under California law, the Labor Commissioner's Office has authority to cite any individual who causes minimum wage and overtime violations, including owners, corporate officers and managers," said California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su. "Individuals acting on behalf of an employer to steal workers' wages cannot hide behind corporate entities to avoid personal liability, all the while profiting at the expense of honest businesses that play by the rules."
In addition to the car wash owner Centinela Car Wash Inc., the corporation's president, Hooman Nissani, and general manager Keyvan Shamshoni were both held jointly and severally liable for the wage theft violations, according to Su.
The investigation was opened in February 2018 after the Labor Commissioner's Office received a referral from the Community Labor Environmental Action Network, a nonprofit that assists car wash workers. CLEAN assisted in the investigation by contacting workers who might have been victims of the wage theft, and coordinating with workers so that investigators could interview them about working conditions at the car wash.
In March 2018, Centinela Car Wash was cited $10,000 for failure to register with the Labor Commissioner's Office as required by Labor Code sections 2054 and 2060.
The $2,365,051 citation amount includes $1,849,151 payable to workers and $515,900 in civil penalties. Of the total due to workers, $487,045 is for minimum wage violations, $146,129 in overtime wages, $688,410 in liquidated damages, $258,394 for meal and rest break violations, $64,905 for split shift violations, $188,450 for itemized statement violations and $15,638 for waiting time penalties.
The civil penalties include $124,150 for minimum wage and overtime violations, $49,350 for meal and rest break violations, $49,400 for split shift violations and $293,000 for itemized statement violations.
Investigators also issued a demand that Playa Vista Car Wash pay $19,000 to return illegal deductions from workers' paychecks for towels used at the car wash.
Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime and other labor law violations, and calculate payments owed and penalties due. Civil penalties collected are transferred to the State's General Fund as required by law.