A California restaurant’s attempt to extract employees’ workplace “sins” through an alleged priest was met with an earthly judgment from the Department of Labor (DOL).
What started as an investigation of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act developed into what the agency said was “among the most shameless” attempts to cheat workers at the Taqueria Garibaldi in Sacramento, California.
According to a press release from the DOL, Che Garibaldi Inc. and owners and operators Hector Manual Martinez Galindo, Eduardo Hernandez and Alejandro Rodriguez had been taken to court for denying employees overtime pay for working over 40 hours in a workweek. While being investigated, the restaurant had brought in an individual claiming to be a priest in an apparent effort to get employees to be uncooperative with investigators.
“Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered 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,” San Francisco Regional Solicitor of Labor Mark Pilotin said. “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recover of unpaid wages.”
“As soon as the confession started,” employee Maria Parra had sworn in her declaration to federal court, “I found the conversation to be strange and unlike normal confessions, where I would tell a priest about the sins I wanted to confess.”
The “priest” reportedly only wanted to know about offenses that may have been committed on the job that included material or payroll theft from the employer or harboring ill intent towards them.
Additionally, the agency had reportedly determined that Garibaldi had “paid managers from the employee tip pool illegally, threatened employees with retaliation and adverse immigration consequences for cooperating with the department, and fired one worker who they believed had complained to the department.”
The 35 employees, both former and current, who were impacted by the workplace violations were awarded a combined total of $70,000 in back pay. Additionally, they were slated to receive $70,000 in damages bringing the total sum owed over time by Garibaldi to $140,000.
That did not include the $5,000 owed to the DOL in civil money penalties that came “due to the willful nature of their violations.”
Along with the monetary compensation, the agency’s press release detailed, “The court also ordered the defendants permanently forbidden from FLSA violations. Specifically, the court ordered Taqueria Garibaldi not to take any action to stop employees from asserting their rights, interfere with any department investigation, or terminate, threaten or discriminate against any employee perceived to have spoken with investigators.”
Though it was not determined whether or not the individual taking workplace “confessions” was actually a Catholic priest, the Diocese of Sacramento had confirmed in a statement that they were “completely confident he was not a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento.”
Previously, they had warned that a man had been visiting homes to celebrate mass and give the Eucharist. At the time, Fox 40 had reported in early 2014 that the individual identified as Javier Posada was not a Roman Catholic but identified as a member of the “Santa Barbara Old Catholic Church in America.”
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