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November 28, 2012
UCI Immigration Clinic Prevails in Defending Rights of Immigrant Workers
Eighteen hotel employees reached a $130,000 settlement with HEI Hotels and Resorts over denial of meal and rest breaks required by California law. The settlement arose from claims filed with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement by employees of the Hilton Long Beach and Executive Meeting Center, owned and managed by HEI.
In hearings before the Labor Commissioner, workers described facing direct pressure from supervisors to work through meals and to skip rest breaks to keep up with increasingly heavy workloads. Some employees suffered injuries due to the unremitting nature of their work. Employees in the hotel’s kitchen, restaurant, room service, banquet services and housekeeping departments stepped forward to participate in the legal action. Most of the workers are “back of the house” monolingual Spanish speakers.
Under California law, employers must establish practices that do not discourage workers from exercising their right to full 30-minute meal periods and 10-minute rest breaks. The workers, current and former Long Beach Hilton employees, were supported in their efforts by UNITE HERE Local 11 and represented by the UC Irvine School of Law-Immigrant Rights Clinic and Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.
"Like many at the hotel, I worked through my breaks for years while rushing from room to room changing beds and scrubbing floors," said Maria Patlan, a Hilton housekeeper. "I hope this money will help teach the Hilton Long Beach a lesson in how to treat people like me."
"Through persuasive testimony and painstaking analysis of time records, workers, law students, and public interest lawyers overcame the odds in a challenging area of the law. They showed that groups of employees with dedicated legal support can hold employers accountable for worsening conditions of work in the low-wage sector," said Sameer Ashar, Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at UC Irvine School of Law.
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