Car Wash Overtime Lawsuit Seeks $630K in Back Wages

A $2.6-million lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday alleging a California car wash paid its employees less than minimum wage and denied overtime. The lawsuit was filed by the state’s attorney general against the Auto Spa Express, its owner, and its present incorporation as Sunset Car Wash.

This CA lawsuit is reminiscent of our reportage earlier this year in Unpaid Wages and Unrecorded Hours Subject of Local Nashville, TN Car Wash Workers… blog.

Shur-Brite, a Nashville, TN.-based car wash company, faced a federal lawsuit filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in May for unpaid wage and illegal timecard policies. Especially egregious was the illegal workplace practice of having its wage employees clock out when there were no cars for them to wash. Some days, according to the wage and hour lawsuit, a TN car wash worker would be forced to clock out ten or more times a day. So, while at work for over 40 hours a week (and unable to leave without losing their employment), workers could be paid for less than 20 hours.

Similarly in California, Auto Spa Express stands accused of illegal pay practices, including not keeping accurate time cards, not paying workers for times when customers were not available, and not paying overtime. Even more audacious, the company allegedly paid a rate other than minimum wage on more than one occasion and were paid in cash. Like the TN car wash lawsuit earlier this year, employees were forced to work long hours, sometimes ten hours a day for six days a week without overtime.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, came after the state attorney general’s office received complaints from employees. The Attorney General is seeking to recover $630,000 in alleged unpaid wages to the car wash employees, plus $2 million in penalties for violation of California’s Unfair Business Act.

Under Tennessee employment law, as is the case throughout the States, your employer is required to keep accurate records of the time you worked if you are paid by the hour. You cannot be clocked out when things are slow and kept around until business picks up. If you are not allowed to leave the premises, you are on the clock. This includes mandatory training and time at the end of a shift when a service industry worker typically cleans or stocks. These hours must be recorded and count towards overtime regardless of whatever verbal promises or agreements are made between a worker and manager or store owner. In other words, you have the right to be paid for the time you are required to be at work, even if you’ve agreed not be paid overtime or work off the clock, and federal and Tennessee employment law offers means of recovering unpaid wages.

The employment lawsuit against Shur-Brite was settled between the Tennessee company and its former and current employees for $130,000.

Both the Los Angeles and Tennessee unpaid wage lawsuits mirror other wage and hour lawsuits against car wash filed in California court for failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay and to allow breaks and meals. These reveal the growing number of wage and hour lawsuits now being pursued by TN wage and hour lawyers and employment lawyers across the county.

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