The state of California fined 2 owners of the SF Burger King

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has fined two San Francisco Burger King franchisees $2.2 million in wage theft cases, which will be paid to 230 former employees.

The decision comes after both Monu Singh and Harkiran Randhawa of Golden Gate Restaurant Group lost appeals of the $1.9 million fine issued in June of 2020 by the Labor Commissioner’s Office. The quote is now set at $2.2 million, which includes accrued interest.

The case originally started in 2019 when a group of Burger King employees at… Notorious location 1200 Market Street, in downtown San Francisco, “essentially quit the job,” according to Alex Campbell, senior staff attorney at the nonprofit law firm Legal Aid in Action. Campbell has worked on this issue since the beginning.

Through their attorneys, Colin Calvert of the law firm Fisher Phillips, Singh and Randawa denied any wrongdoing in an email to SFGATE.

Calvert wrote, “We intend to appeal and believe the verdict is not supported by the testimony and substantiated evidence.”

The former employees allege that Singh and Randhawa intentionally shortlisted at least six San Francisco Burger King restaurants under Golden Gate Restaurant Group ownership in an effort to cut costs. These practices allegedly created unsustainable working conditions for employees, according to the Labor Commissioner’s investigation, which has been reviewed by SFGATE.

The investigation found that this type of cost-cutting maneuver was not unique to 1200 Market Street.

“The violations in question were not isolated cases that were the result of the fault of rogue supervisors, but rather, based on evidence, an integral part of the method of operations initiated and/or known to both [owners]Read the decision of the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

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Employees working at Burger King locations owned by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group said they worked overtime without pay and worked through mandatory rest periods in accordance with California law. They also alleged that they often doubled as cashiers, cleaners, and other positions that did not belong to them, according to the investigation report.

One chef said she worked overtime because no one on staff qualified to prepare food safely. Other employees, such as Sonia Crisostomo, were reportedly required to arrive early and perform duties such as depositing money in the bank even after work was over.

Managers have also stated that they are under intense pressure from restaurateurs to deliver high sales figures while keeping labor costs low, according to the Office of the Labor Commissioner. Former manager Sandra Gutierrez told investigators she had a regular 10am-6pm shift, but often came in early and worked later “because there weren’t enough people to run the store,” according to the investigation report.

Those extra hours were reportedly not logged, due to pressures to keep labor costs down.

The investigation also found that employees often get paid “10 days after the end of the fortnightly pay period”.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office alleged that Singh and Randawa were aware of many complaints about labor shortages caused by staffing and management, but would not raise staffing levels “unless sales were higher”.

The investigation found that the owners were constantly changing employees’ timecards after the accident and attributed the changes to “system errors” in the computer or called “forgot to log in”.

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Other changes by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group included falsifying meal break forms to show that employees took a break when they had not, and that the time-recording software was set up in such a way as not to allow “too many” employees to work at the same time.

Two investigations by government agencies are looking at Singh and Randhawa, said Campbell, the senior staff attorney for Legal Aid in Action. Along with the investigation by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, the city of San Francisco is reportedly investigating the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, though any conclusions from that investigation have yet to be made public, Campbell said.

Currently, former Burger King employees will not receive any of the citation money. As Singh and Randhawa plan to appeal this current decision, the next step in the process involves a higher court determining the final outcome. Singh and Randhawa could appeal each decision until it reaches the California Supreme Court, presumably.

“This may take some time before it is fully resolved,” Campbell said.

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