California state fines 2 SF Burger King owners

The California State Labor Commissioner’s Office fined two San Francisco Burger King franchise owners $2.2 million in fines for wage theft, to be paid to 230 former employees.

This decision comes after Monu Singh and Harkiran Randhawa of Golden Gate Restaurant Group lost an appeal of the $1.9 million fine issued in June 2020 by the Labor Commissioner’s Office. The subpoena is now set at $2.2 million, which includes accrued interest.

The case originally began in 2019 when a group of Burger King employees at the infamous 1200 Market St. location in downtown San Francisco “basically walked out on the job,” according to Alexx Campbell, lead attorney for the nonprofit law office. for-profit Legal Aid. at work. Campbell has worked on this case from the beginning.

Through their attorney, Colin Calvert of the Fisher Phillips law firm, Singh and Randhawa denied any wrongdoing in an email to SFGATE.

“We intend to appeal and believe the ruling is not supported by the testimony and evidence obtained,” Calvert wrote.

The former employees allege that Singh and Randhawa knowingly understaffed at least six San Francisco Burger King restaurants under the ownership of the Golden Gate Restaurant Group in an effort to cut costs. The practices allegedly created unsustainable working conditions for employees, according to the labor commissioner’s investigation, which was reviewed by SFGATE.

This type of cost-cutting maneuver was not unique to the 1200 Market St. location, the investigation found.

“The violations in question were not isolated instances that were the fault of dishonest supervisors, but, based on the evidence, an integral part of a form of operations initiated and/or known by both [owners]”said the decision of the Office of the Labor Commissioner.

Employees working at Burger King locations owned by Golden Gate Restaurant Group said they worked unpaid overtime and worked during mandatory breaks as governed by California law. They also alleged that they often worked as cashiers, cleaners and other positions that were not their own, according to the investigative report.

One cook said she was working overtime because there was no one on staff qualified to safely prepare food. Other employees, such as Sonia Crisostomo, were reportedly asked to arrive early and perform tasks such as depositing money in the bank even after clocking out.

Managers also stated that they were under intense pressure from restaurant owners to achieve high sales numbers and keep labor costs low, according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Former manager Sandra Gutierrez told investigators that she worked a regular 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift, but often arrived earlier and worked later “because there were not enough people to run the store,” according to the investigative report. .

However, he reportedly did not log those extra hours due to pressures to keep labor costs down.

The investigation also found that employees were often paid “10 days after the end of the biweekly pay period.”

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office alleged that Singh and Randhawa were aware of several complaints about labor shortages coming from employees and management, but would not increase staffing levels “unless sales were higher.” ”.

The investigation found that owners consistently altered employees’ time cards after the fact and attributed the changes to computer “system errors” or labeled it “forgot to clock in.”

Other changes made by Golden Gate Restaurant Group included falsifying meal break forms to show that staff had taken a break when they had not, and that the time recording software was configured in such a way that it would not allow “too many” employees will take a break. work at the same time.

Campbell, the lead lawyer for Legal Aid at Work, said there were two investigations by government agencies looking into Singh and Randhawa. Along with the investigation by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, the city of San Francisco is reportedly investigating Golden Gate Restaurant Group, although the findings of that investigation have not yet been made public, Campbell said.

For now, former Burger King employees will not receive any of the money from the subpoena. Because Singh and Randhawa plan to appeal this current decision, the next step in the process involves a higher court determining the final outcome. Singh and Randhawa can appeal each decision until it reaches the California Supreme Court, potentially.

“This could take a while before it is fully resolved,” Campbell said.

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