Then gets 1,440 hours of back pay…
Lawyers for Employment & Consumer Rights (LFECR) fights for you every day—and we’re here to report another win… this time a settlement and back pay for a California mother. Here are the details.
Paula Lopez, a pregnant, low-wage fast food worker at a California Jack in the Box recently had her wages stolen and her job taken. Unfortunately, Paula Lopez is not alone. Wage theft and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations are rampant in the restaurant industry. In fact, various types of wage and hour violations, as well as wrongful termination firings, happen thousands of times a year and most of these violations go unpunished. But in Paula Lopez’s case, justice was served.
The Jack in the Box franchise agreed to pay the equivalent of 1,440 hours in back salary to settle a matter involving their long-time employee Paula Lopez, allegedly a victim of wage theft and then fired when she was 5-months pregnant. Unlike the many California fast food workers that are unwitting victims of wage theft, Paula knew something was wrong. She decided to learn more about her rights and ask for help. Paula called Lawyers For Employee & Consumer Rights for a free case review.
5-months pregnant and fired… how did this happen?
In her fifth month of pregnancy, Paula used a sick day. On the following day Paula was fired. Allegedly the Jack in the Box franchise management staff where she worked knew that Paula was pregnant and knew that she was taking days off because she was pregnant. In most U.S. workplaces, firing someone due to being pregnant is a violation.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of mandated employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
Denied meal and rest breaks? It’s called wage theft.
In addition to being fired unfairly, Paula was also not granted all of her lunch breaks or rest breaks. When fast food restaurants deny an employee meal or rest breaks, they are literally stealing money from their employees. It’s called wage theft—when an employer does not pay or underpays employees for time worked. Wage theft by employers can be any of the following:
- Paying less than the minimum wage
- Paying the tipped minimum wage for non-tipped work tasks
- Refusing to provide overtime pay
- Failing to give workers meal breaks
- Failing to give workers rest breaks
- Requiring off-the-clock work
Restaurant Industry Notorious for Wage Theft
Wage theft permeates the restaurant industry, from fast food restaurants to fine dining establishments. According to a recent New York Times editorial, the Department of Labor’s wage and hour division reported almost “84 percent of full-service restaurants it investigated had violated labor standards.” Indeed, the facts don’t lie, says Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, “The poorest workers in America are being stolen from the most.” The Institute for Policy Research agrees, reporting that certain groups—women, minorities, non-U.S. citizens, and nonunion workers—are all more likely to suffer from wage theft.
The restaurant and fast food industries will continue to steal wages from employees for one simple reason: because they believe they can get away with it. Don’t let that happen.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS | KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Because California is an “at-will” employment state (employers are free to terminate employees at any time) employees think that they have no rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Learn more about your employee rights. Contact us today.
Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights (LFECR) is a leading California employment law firm. With more than forty remote attorneys, LFECR is prepared to work on behalf of their clients anywhere in California.
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