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Cheesecake Factory Pays $4.5 Million to Janitors for Wage Theft

A recent law in California now requires businesses and their subcontractors to pay fines involving labor law violations

Thanks to ruling last month by the California Labor Commissioner, The Cheesecake Factory and its janitorial subcontractor must pay 559 janitors up to $4.5 million in lost wages and fines. The restaurant chain and its janitorial subcontractor were fined for illegal practices going back to 2014, when the state found them in violation of state and federal labor laws by paying less than minimum wage, withholding overtime pay, forcing janitors to work longer hours without pay, and refusing to give them proper meal and rest breaks.

The Cheesecake Factory contracted with Americlean Janitorial Services Corp. to service Cheesecake locations in Brea, Newport Beach, Irvine, Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach, and three locations in San Diego. Investigators only looked into a three-year period, but when it widened its lens, the industry watch group Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund actually discovered $70 million in unpaid wages from the past 20 years.

The suit claims that janitors began their shifts at midnight and worked until morning with no breaks, even though they are mandated by law. Magic Touch workers were not allowed to leave the restaurants until after Cheesecake Factory kitchen managers inspected their work. These inspections repeatedly led to additional unpaid hours and unpaid tasks for the janitorial staff. In fact, investigators found that janitors logged up to 10 hours of unpaid overtime each week — even though they were rarely paid for it.

Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning’s owner Zulma Villegas will pay $3,936,359 to the workers for these violations. Villegas will also pay $632,750 for civil penalties, including improper filing of itemized pay stubs. The Commissioner reported that Villegas recently changed her business name to Z’s Commercial Quality Cleaning, but both businesses are subject to the citations.

The Cheesecake Factory case is the first to fall under SB 588. Promoted by California senator Kevin De Leon in 2016, the law holds all parties employing workers accountable for any labor violations. In other words, Cheesecake Factory must pay for the misdeeds of its subcontractors. The current ruling exposes an alarming pattern of labor violations involving janitors. In 2007, a Cheesecake Factory subcontractor paid janitors $14 million in damages, and another group of janitors privately sued to recover unpaid wages from a different Cheesecake subcontractor in 2012.

 

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Emery Reddy