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Janitorial work is not fun. Overnight janitorial shifts can be even worse. And working eight hours overnight cleaning a Cheesecake Factory without rest or meal breaks, and then having a kitchen manager come in and tell you there more to do before you can leave? Well, you better be getting some overtime pay for that, at least.
Not so, according to California's Labor Commissioner's Office, which found that eight Cheesecake locations in the state owed 559 underpaid janitorial workers $3.94 million in minimum wages, overtime, liquidated damages, waiting time penalties, and meal and rest period premiums. What happened?
Theft on the Factory Floor
The Cheesecake Factories at issue, located in Orange and San Diego counties, contracted janitorial work from Americlean Janitorial Services Corporation, who then subcontracted the work to Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning. According to Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su, companies often attempt to avoid wage and hour laws by contracting work out, but new laws are designed to extend liability for violations. "Client businesses can no longer shield themselves from liability for wage theft through multiple layers of contracts," Su said. "Our enforcement benefits not only the workers who deserve to be paid, but also legitimate janitorial businesses that are underbid by wage thieves."
According to state investigators, janitors working at Cheesecake Factory began shifts around midnight and worked until the morning without legally mandated meal or rest breaks. Janitors then couldn't leave until kitchen managers conducted walk-throughs, frequently demanding additional cleaning tasks. Some workers logged up to 10 hours of unpaid overtime every week.
Not a Clean Record
The franchises were find a grand total of $4.57 million for wage theft, and it wasn't the first time they've faced similar accusations according to Lilia Garcia-Brower, executive director of janitorial industry watchdog Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund. "This marks the third time the Cheesecake Factory has stood by as the people who clean their restaurants had thousands of dollars in wages stolen from their paychecks," Garcia-Brower said. "This time is different. Because of new laws in the state, the Cheesecake Factory will also be held accountable for the stolen wages of the people who clean their restaurants."
If you have questions about wage and hour liability for contracted or subcontracted workers in your state, contact a local employment attorney.