2 SF Burger King owner fined by state of California

The California State Labor Commissioner has fined two San Francisco Burger King franchise owners $2.2 million for allegedly stealing wages owed to 230 former employees.

The decision comes after Golden Gate Restaurant Group’s Monu Singh and Harkiran Randhawa lost their appeal of a $1.9 million fine imposed by the Office of the Labor Commissioner in June 2020. The quote is now set at $2.2 million including accrued interest.

The case first began in 2019 when a group of Burger King employees at the popular 1200 Market St. in downtown San Francisco “basically walked out,” said Alexx Campbell, senior attorney at the nonprofit law firm Legal Aid. At work. Campbell had been working on this from the beginning.

Colin Calvert, Singh and Randhawa of law firm Fisher Phillips denied any wrongdoing in a letter to SFGATE through their lawyers.

“We intend to appeal and believe the decision is not supported by the testimony and the evidence provided,” Calvert said.

Former employees Singh and Randhawa allege they deliberately understaffed at least six San Francisco Burger King restaurants owned by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group to cut costs. According to a labor commissioner’s investigation reviewed by SFGATE, these practices created unsustainable working conditions for workers.

The investigation found that such a cost-cutting maneuver involved 1200 Market St.

“The violations in question are not isolated incidents that are the fault of fraudulent supervisors, but are, based on evidence, initiated by both parties and/or part or parcel of a known modus operandi. [owners]”, – the decision of the Office of the Labor Commissioner was read.

Workers at Golden Gate Restaurant Group-owned Burger King locations said they worked unpaid overtime and mandatory breaks under California law. They also claimed that they often worked as cashiers, cleaners and other jobs that were not theirs, according to the investigation report.

One chef said he was working overtime because there was no one on staff qualified to prepare safe food. Other employees, like Sonia Crisostomo, were asked to come in early and perform tasks such as making bank deposits after work.

Managers said they are under intense pressure from restaurant owners to deliver high sales numbers while keeping labor costs low, according to the Office of the Labor Commissioner. Sandra Gutierrez, the former manager, told investigators that she had a regular shift of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but often came in late and worked later “because there weren’t enough people to run the store.”

He reportedly did not put in these extra hours because of pressure to keep labor costs down.

The investigation also concluded that workers were often paid “10 days after the end of a fortnightly pay period”.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office claimed that Singh and Randhawa were aware of several complaints about understaffing from employees and management, but that they would not increase staffing levels “unless sales are higher.”

The investigation found that owners would consistently change employees’ time cards after the fact, attributing the changes to computer “system errors” or labeling them “forgot to enter hours.”

Other changes made by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group included falsifying meal break forms to show employees were taking breaks when they weren’t, and setting up time-keeping software to prevent “too many” employees. work at the same time.

Campbell, a senior attorney at Legal Aid At Work, said Singh and Randhawa were under two investigations by government agencies. In addition to the California Labor Commissioner’s investigation, the city of San Francisco is reportedly investigating the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, although any results from that investigation have not yet been made public, Campbell said.

For now, former Burger King employees will not receive any of the citation money. As Singh and Randhawa plan to appeal this current ruling, the next step in the process involves a higher court deciding the final outcome. Singh and Randhawa can appeal each decision, potentially all the way to the California Supreme Court.

“It may take some time before it’s completely resolved,” Campbell said.

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