Restaurant to pay workers US$140,000 for hiring fake priest to coerce confessions

21 Jun 2023 04:02pm
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX
SACRAMENTO United States - A California restaurant has been ordered to pay its workers US$140,000 in back wages after federal investigators found the owner had hired a fake priest to coerce employee confessions about workplace sins.

According to Department of Labor investigators, the owner of Taqueria Garibaldi in Sacramento used the fake priest to intimidate employees and ask if they had stolen, been late for work or done anything to harm their owner Che Garibaldi, or if they had bad intentions towards their employer, reported United Press International (UPI).

Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant hired a supposed priest to hear their workplace 'sins' while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department's investigation, Regional Solicitor of Labor Mark Pilotin said in a statement Tuesday.

Investigators also found that the restaurant failed to pay workers overtime beyond a 40-hour week in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Managers were paid bonuses illegally from the employee tip pool. And some workers faced adverse immigration consequences for cooperating with investigators, including one employee who was fired for complaining to the department.

This employer's despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages, Pilotin said.

Garibaldi, who operates Taqueria Garibaldi restaurants in Sacramento and Roseville, and three other owners agreed to a consent judgment last month and will pay US$140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees. The restaurant was also ordered to pay US$5,000 in civil penalties.

According to the agreement, Taqueria Garibaldi is not allowed to take any action against employees who assert their rights, or terminate, threaten or discriminate against any employee perceived to have spoken with investigators.

The US Department of Labor and its Solicitor's Office will not tolerate workplace retaliation and will act swiftly to make clear that immigration status has no bearing on workers' rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Pilotin said - BERNAMA

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