SACRAMENTO – Federal wage and hour investigators have seen corrupt employers try all kinds of scams to shortchange workers and to intimidate or retaliate against employees but a northern California restaurant’s attempt to use an alleged priest to get employees to admit workplace “sins” may be among the most shameless.
During litigation by the U.S. Department of Labor in federal court, an employee of Che Garibaldi Inc., operator of Taqueria Garibaldi, testified that the restaurant offered employees a person identified as a priest to hear confessions during work hours. The employee told the court the priest urged workers to “get the sins out,” and asked employees if they had stolen from the employer, been late for work, had done anything to harm their employer, or if they had bad intentions toward their employer.
Ultimately, the employer agreed to a consent judgment, and Judge William B. Shubb in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ordered Che Garibaldi and owners and operators Eduardo Hernandez, Hector Manual Martinez Galindo and Alejandro Rodriguez to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees. Che Garibaldi Inc. operates two Taqueria Garibaldi restaurants in Sacramento and one in Roseville.
The court’s May 8, 2023, action follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found Taqueria Garibaldi denied employees overtime pay for hours over 40 in a workweek, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They also learned the employer paid managers from the employee tip pool illegally, threatened employees with retaliation and adverse immigration consequences for cooperating with the department, and fired one worker who they believed had complained to the department.
“Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered a supposed priest to hear their workplace ‘sins’ while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department’s investigation,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages.”
In addition to aiding the recovery of $70,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, the judge ordered the restaurant and its owners to pay the department $5,000 in civil money penalties due to the willful nature of their violations.
“The U.S. Department of Labor and its Solicitor’s Office will not tolerate workplace retaliation and will act swiftly to make clear that immigration status has no bearing on workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Pilotin added.
The court also ordered the defendants permanently forbidden from FLSA violations. Specifically, the court ordered Taqueria Garibaldi not to take any action to stop employees from asserting their rights, interfere with any department investigation, or terminate, threaten or discriminate against any employee perceived to have spoken with investigators.
The division’s Sacramento District Office conducted the investigation. The department’s Regional Solicitor’s Office in San Francisco litigated 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 ensure hours and pay are accurate.
Julie A. Su, acting Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor vs. Che Garibaldi dba Taqueria Garibaldi, a California corporation; Eduardo Hernandez; Hector Manual Martinez Galindo; and Alejandro Rodriguez.
Case No. 2:22-cv-00756-wbs-kjn
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