Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has prevailed in its efforts to ensure access to court in an ongoing class action lawsuit filed on behalf of employees-or "Carwasheros," as they identify themselves- of three car washes operating in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The car wash companies include Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, Inc. (doing business as Millennium Car Wash), Silver Wash, Inc. (doing business as Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing), and Gold Wash (doing business as Bubble Bee Car Wash). The car washes have denied their workers pay for time worked, meal times, and overtime, and the workers brought a class action to stop these practices. The defendant car wash companies sought to have a private arbitrator decide the case and to eliminate the class action, but the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal and backed MALDEF's contention that the class case should be heard in state court before a jury.
MALDEF's suit seeks a court order that would prohibit the car washes from continuing to engage in unlawful labor practices, and seeks to compensate the affected workers by providing them the wages and other benefits the car wash owners unfairly denied them. They allege that the unlawful labor policies and practices maintained by the employers resulted in thousands of hours of unpaid labor at each car wash. Employees were expected to report to work early to prepare for the day, to work "off the clock," and were only permitted to work "on the clock" when the employer felt there were enough customers to justify payment for work. Employees who did not report to work early were punished in various ways.
Employee mistreatment at the car washes went beyond wage and hour violations. The car wash owners also required employees to purchase their own materials for work, and intentionally provided employees with inaccurate work records in an effort to conceal unlawful labor practices.