2 owners of SF Burger King fined by the State of California

The California state labor commissioner’s office has fined two San Francisco Burger King franchise owners $2.2 million for wage theft, to be paid to 230 former employees.

The move 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 Office of the Labor Commissioner. The citation is now set at $2.2 million, which includes accrued interest.

The case began in 2019 when a group of Burger King employees at the infamous 1200 Market St. location in downtown San Francisco “essentially walked off the job,” according to Alexx Campbell, the firm’s senior attorney. non-profit lawyers Legal Aid at Work. Campbell has been working on this case since the beginning.

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

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

Former employees allege that Singh and Randhawa knowingly understaffed at least six San Francisco Burger King restaurants owned by 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 at issue were not isolated instances that were the fault of rogue supervisors, but, based on the evidence, were integral to a pattern of operations initiated and/or known to both [owners]“, We read in the decision of the Commissariat of Labor.

Employees working at Burger King locations owned by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group said they worked unpaid overtime and worked through mandatory breaks, per California law. According to the investigation report, they also alleged that they often acted as cashiers, cleaners and other positions that were not theirs.

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

Managers also said they were under intense pressure from restaurant owners to achieve high sales figures while keeping labor costs low, according to the Office of the Labor Commissioner. Former manager Sandra Gutierrez told investigators she regularly worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but often showed up earlier and worked later “because there weren’t enough people to run the store. “, according to the investigation report.

However, she reportedly did not time these overtime hours, due to pressures to keep labor costs low.

The survey also found that employees were often paid “10 days after the end of the bi-weekly pay period.”

The California labor commissioner’s office alleged that Singh and Randhawa were aware of several complaints about labor shortages from employees and management, but would not increase staffing levels “unless sales are no longer high”.

The investigation found that owners routinely changed employee time cards after the fact and attributed the changes to computer “system errors” or labeled them “forgot to clock in.”

Other changes made by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group included the falsification of meal break forms to show that staff had taken a break when they had not, and time-recording software was configured so as not to allow “too many” employees to work at the same time.

Campbell, the lead attorney for Legal Aid at Work, said there had been two investigations by government agencies into Singh and Randhawa. Along with the investigation by the California labor commissioner’s office, the city of San Francisco would investigate the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, although the findings of that investigation have not yet been made public, Campbell said.

At this time, former Burger King employees will not receive any portion of the citation money. Since Singh and Randhawa plan to appeal this current ruling, the next step in the process involves a higher court determining a final outcome. Singh and Randhawa can appeal each ruling until it potentially reaches the California Supreme Court.

“It might take a while before this is fully resolved,” Campbell said.



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