Car washes in Irvine, Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel are among eight targeted by California Attorney General Jerry Brown in a $6.6 million lawsuit that alleges a "widespread pattern of worker exploitation," unpaid wages and illegal business practices.
All eight car washes are owned by the Sikder family, which also owns the trendy celebrity magnet Koi restaurant in Los Angeles.
"While Koi served up yellowtail tartare and Kobe beef carpaccio to Hollywood celebrities, the restaurant's owners routinely denied wages, breaks and overtime pay to workers at their unlicensed car washes," Brown said in a statement released by his office. "Today's lawsuit seeks to end this widespread pattern of worker exploitation."
The Orange County businesses are:
- Crown Valley Car Wash, 25991 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel
- Laguna Hills Union 76 Station, 24795 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills
- Wash & Go Hand Wash (also known as Wash & Go Hand Carwash Corp and Irvine Auto Spa), 3080 Main St., Irvine
The other car washes swept up in the AG's five-month investigation are in Venice, Folsom, Fair Oaks, San Ramon and Santa Monica. Among the allegations against the eight:
- Workers were routinely denied minimum wage and overtime.
- Wages owed to those who quit or were terminated were withheld.
- Workers were denied rest and meal breaks.
- Worker records were falsified.
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- Employees were also told to report to work and wait, unpaid, until business picked up.
- Workers' paychecks often could not be cashed because of insufficient company funds.
- Car washes operated for years without licenses from the Labor Commissioner.
The $6.6 million amount being sought in the suit would cover lost wages and civil penalties. Brown's office is also seeking an injunction preventing the defendants from committing similar violations in the future and more than $1.8 million owed in recorded liens.