CAUTIONARY TALE EPISODE 69 TAQUERIA TANKED AFTER PRIEST PRANK « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


While the truth has been frequently known to set individuals free, Sacramento-based Taqueria Garibaldi has received a $140,000-plus reality adjustment after reportedly attempting to intimidate staff by having a fake priest extract confessions during a U.S Department of Labor investigation.

Accused of wage underpayment and of funneling customer tip money to enrich senior management, the restaurant evidently doubled down by bringing in what the Catholic News Service later termed a fake priest to obtain employee confessions of workplace misconduct. Management also reportedly threatened workers with “immigration consequences” if they cooperated with the government.

The DOL was not amused.  Announcing the ensuing court order for Taqueria Garibaldi to pay $70,000 in back wages, another $70,000 in damages, and $5,000 in penalties, the agency offered that “[its] investigators have seen corrupt employers try all kinds of scams to shortchange workers and to intimidate or retaliate against employees but a northern California restaurant’s attempt to use an alleged priest to get employees to admit workplace ‘sins’ may be among the most shameless.”

The judge directed the employer to never “terminate, threaten to terminate, retaliate, or discriminate against any employee in any other way because such employee spoke or was perceived to have spoken with … or otherwise cooperated or perceived to have cooperated with a [DOL investigator].”

The May 8, 2023 order also ordered Taqueria Garibaldi to implement a “time system that accurately records all hours worked by employees, including when employees clocked in and out, as well as a computation of all regular hours and overtime hours worked in a day.” The system must “accurately record the time the employee (i) begins work each day by clocking in as soon as the employee begins any period of work; (ii) [clocks] out for any unpaid breaks of 20 minutes or more; and (iii) [clocks] out when the work period ends.”

The employer was also directed not to “alter or manipulate time or payroll records to reduce the number of hours actually worked by an employee unless an employee agrees in writing to correct an error.”

To other employers similarly inclined, DOL lawyer Marc Pilotin stated, “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages …  the [DOL] will not tolerate workplace retaliation and will act swiftly to make clear that immigration status has no bearing on workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Take Aways:

Obviously, management must conscientiously seek to embrace and document its compliance with all applicable wage and hour standards.  Managers must also accord government investigators the benefit of the doubt as responsible for assisting employers to correct any shortcomings. Circling the wagons and treating cooperating workers as adversaries in an audit are an investment in madness.

For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Tim Bowles
June 23, 2023

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