California investigators from the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) issued citations of more than $130,000 for multiple labor law violations to a Los Angeles restaurant owner found to be operating illegally for more than 10 years. The Los Angeles District Attorney was notified and is now investigating the company for operating without workers’ compensation coverage.
El Bucanero, a seafood restaurant, with two locations in Los Angeles, has been in business since 1998. Investigators cited El Bucanero’s owner, Julio Cesar Cervantes, $10,000 for failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance and $85,750 for paying his 10 employees in cash without itemized wage deduction statements or paystubs. Cervantes was issued a stop work order for not having workers’ compensation and told that he could not operate with employee labor. Reinspection found that he was still operating his business. Cervantes was ordered to send employees home until the business proves an active policy is in place to cover workers.
“California law provides basic protections for workers such as minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation coverage as well as meal and rest breaks” said EEEC Executive Director David Dorame. “This is a classic example of an employer flaunting the laws, taking advantage of workers and creating an unfair economic advantage over employers who follow the laws and contribute to the state’s economy.”
Other penalties included $17,150 for failure to pay minimum wage, and $17,150 for failure to pay overtime wages. A pending audit will review the past 12 months of operation that will include payroll and business records for meal and rest, overtime and minimum wage.
Numerous safety violations were also encountered at the two restaurants, such as a blocked electrical panel, no injury and illness prevention program, freezers with inadequate protection, and poor sanitation with dirty bathrooms and no toilet paper for employees’ use.
The inspection occurred as part of a two-day enforcement activity of the restaurant industry in Los Angeles County on May 5 and 6.
As part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 initiative to combat the underground economy, the EEEC enforces California labor laws through unannounced enforcement sweeps targeting businesses that avoid labor, tax and licensing laws, safety and health regulations and carry no workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.
In addition to the enforcement sweeps, EEEC also conducts educational outreach to business owners and workers on labor laws and regulations through regularly statewide workshops.
EEEC focuses on businesses in the garment, agriculture, construction, pallet, auto body, car wash and restaurant industries. These industries have been identified as having a high incidence of workplace violations and a lack of regulatory compliance.
In collaboration with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Employment Development Department, EEEC works directly with DIR’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health and Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to carry out its mission. The U.S. Department of Labor also participates in the EEEC as does the Contractors State License Board when the construction industry is being targeted.