Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that he is taking legal action against the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain for alleged wage theft.
The company is accused of failing to pay 37 workers at seven of its Los Angeles locations the minimum wage of $10.50 per hour from July through December of last year.
Carl's Jr. is facing a possible total of $1.45 million in restitution and penalties. Feuer said the alleged lost wages totaled over $5,000, but a fine is assessed each day the wage is unpaid, and the company is also facing more fines for allegedly failing to allow investigators access to employees and for not posting required signage about minimum wage laws.
"L.A. law is clear: Employees must be paid at least the minimum wage. Anything less is a slap in the face to workers struggling to make ends meet. This is a major corporation that should know the rules," Feuer said. "Our offices will always aggressively stand up for workers to ensure they get the wages they're owed, and all the protections and benefits the law demands."
Feuer said the case stemmed from a complaint made by a Carl's Jr. employee, which triggered an investigation by the city's Office of Wage Standards.
Carl's Jr. did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
"The minimum wage is a legally established threshold below which employers may not venture to pay their workers," said John Reamer, who oversees the Office of Wage Standards as head of the Bureau of Contract Administration. "The minimum wage was established to ensure economic equity and opportunity, and the Office of Wage Standards will continue to partner with the city attorney to regulate and enforce compliance with the law."
Feuer said that Carl's Jr. sent his office documentation Monday showing it had paid its workers for the lost wages and that his office was still working to verify the paperwork.
The money Carl's Jr. is being ordered to pay is $910,010 in penalties to the 37 employees no later than July 24, and $541,423 in penalties and fines for allegedly violating the minimum wage law, failing to post the required notice at two locations and failing to provide investigators access to interview employees at two locations.
Feuer said Carl's Jr. has a right to appeal the legal action, but failure to make payments could result in a civil action or a lien against Carl's Jr. properties in the city alleged to be involved in the wage theft.