By CHRIS BOUCLY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Employees and former employees of three Orange County car washes will receive a portion of $800,000 in back wages as the result of a settlement announced this week by the state Attorney General’s Office.
“Workers at these car washes were taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers who illegally denied them the pay and benefits they earned,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “I am pleased that the resolution of this case will allow workers to receive the pay they are owed.”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, shown in this June 2011 file photo, recently announced a settlement in a lawsuit over back pay against several car washes, including three in Orange County.
The settlement comes more than a year after then Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a $6.6 million lawsuit against eight car washes – three of them in Orange County – and Dipu Haque, aka Dipu Haque Sikder.
Haque, according to public records, is the president of eight corporations doing business as the car washes, including Laguna Hills Union 76 Service Station, Crown Valley Car Wash in Laguna Niguel, and Wash & Go Hand Wash in Irvine, aka Wash & Go Hand Carwash Corp. and Irvine Auto Spa.
Investigators interviewed more than 80 workers and among the findings, according to the lawsuit, employees were not paid minimum wage for all hours worked, were not paid overtime, and were not paid according to regularly scheduled pay dates. The car washes also had been operating without licenses.
The lawsuit also accused Haque and the car washes of not withholding and paying state taxes, unemployment insurance and disability; not allowing employees to take breaks; issuing pay checks without sufficient funds to cover them; and not paying in a timely manner wages owed to former employees.
The suit asked for $1.7 million in lost wages and $4.9 million in penalties and taxes.
As part of the settlement agreement, Haque denied the allegations and makes no admission of liability. Employees and former employees will split $800,000 in restitution required to be made in two payments, with the first one for $300,000 due on or before Sunday, according to the settlement, and the second one due on or before July 15. In addition, Haque must pay $250,000 in taxes, fees and penalties.
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