SANTA FE SPRINGS, CA – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment as part of its efforts to recover $650,000 in unpaid overtime wages for 26 delivery drivers of a Santa Fe Springs food manufacturer that misclassified them as independent contractors exempt from overtime.
The action by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California requires Romero’s Food Products Inc. to pay back wages to the affected employees. The court also forbid the company permanently from future Fair Labor Standards Act violations and prohibited Romero from employing any worker for more than 40 hours in a workweek without paying them required overtime pay. The court entered the judgment in April 2023.
The department’s litigation follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found that, by misclassifying the drivers as independent contractors, Romero’s Food Products denied them the overtime rate required for hours over 40 in a workweek. The company employed the drivers to distribute its products to Walmart, Costco, Albertson’s, Stater Bros. Markets and other retail grocery outlets. Romero’s also failed to maintain accurate employee records.
“Combating employee misclassification continues to be a U.S. Department of Labor priority,” explained Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Gayane Aleksanian in West Covina, California. “Employers cannot illegally pay delivery drivers as independent contractors and defend the violation as a common industry practice. Misclassifying employees deprives workers of their basic rights under labor law.”
Investigators also found Romero’s Food Products forced many workers to enter into agreements to handle possible labor disputes outside of court.
“These types of agreements create significant barriers for workers seeking to recover their wages,” said Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “We are determined to help workers recover their full earnings, including for employees bound by mandatory arbitration clauses.”
Founded in 1968, Romero’s Food Products Inc. manufactures, sells and distributes a line of Mexican-style food products throughout North America, Asia and Europe.
The division’s West Covina District Office conducted the investigation. The department’s Regional Solicitor’s Office in San Francisco filed a complaint and obtained the consent judgment on the case.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from. The department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – free and now available in Spanish – to track hours and pay.
Julie A. Su, acting Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor vs. Romero’s Food Products Inc.
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