Upholding a 2015 law that says that businesses are accountable for workplace violations even for workers under contractors, The New York Times reports that “The Cheesecake Factory and a janitorial contractor have been found liable in a $4.57 million wage theft case involving hundreds of underpaid janitorial workers.”
The 559 janitorial employees worked at eight California locations in Orange and San Diego counties. Their shifts usually started at midnight, and were forced to work in nine- or 10-hour stretches with no food or break. They also had to stay until “kitchen managers conducted walk-throughs to review their work,” which sometimes resulted in extending their shifts even longer. The California Department Of Industrial Relations says that these tactics resulted in 10 hours of unpaid overtime per worker each week, amounting to wage theft.
The NYT explains that the Americlean Janitorial Services Corporation subcontracted the work to Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning, the company that managed the underpaid workers for Cheesecake Factory. All three companies are now liable for portions of the “$3.94 million in minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest period premiums,” according to The Los Angeles Times, among other damages that result in the $4.57 million total.
The LAT states that “California Labor Commissioner Julie Su said the wage theft citation was the largest she knows of in the janitorial industry. ‘We do feel that this is a significant step in sending a message about abuse of contractors and subcontracted workers,’” who may not be entirely sure who they’re actually working for, and may also be afraid to speak up about unfair practices in danger of losing their jobs. In a statement, Sidney M. Greathouse, Cheesecake Factory’s vice president of legal services, said that the company takes “matters of this nature very seriously” and is continuing to “review the allegations and will respond to the wage citation within the time provided.”