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A federal investigation has recovered $202,192 in back wages and liquidated damages for 13 workers at a Southern California car wash, whose employer shortchanged them, tried to conceal their wrongdoing, and committed other violations of federal law.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that MG Petroleum Inc., operator of Rancho Carwash – a gas station, mini market and car wash – in Rancho Cucamonga, attempted to hide its illegal actions giving workers two paychecks: one for the first 40 hours worked, and a second for overtime hours paid at straight-time rates, without legally required overtime premium.

The division also determined MG Petroleum required workers to take lunch breaks as customer demand dictated. While this practice left employees unable to take uninterrupted one-hour lunch breaks, the employer still deducted an average of 4 hours per week for lunch breaks. The employer’s led to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The investigation led to the recovery of $101,096 in back wages and an equal amount of $101,096 in liquidated damages for the affected workers.

“Federal law requires that employers pay workers all their hard-earned wages, including overtime pay for hours employees work over 40 in a workweek,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Gayane Aleksanian in West Covina, California.

“Rancho Carwash’s operator denied workers their overtime pay and then attempted to hide their illegal pay practices. The costly consequences for their violations and their attempt to evade the law are now clear.”

In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $138 million in unpaid overtime wages for more than 145,000 workers.

“As employers continue to struggle to find the people they need to operate their businesses, those who respect workers’ rights to be paid their full wages and avoid violations are more likely to succeed in retaining and  recruiting employees,” Aleksanian added.