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Rancho Cucamonga carwash operator fined $202,192 for wage theft

Federal regulators have recovered $202,192 in back wages and damages for 13 workers at a Rancho Cucamonga car wash who were shortchanged on overtime hours and charged for lunch breaks that often were interrupted.

The investigation resulted in one worker receiving more than $43,000.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that MG Petroleum Inc., operator of Rancho Carwash at 10075 Arrow Route, attempted to hide its illegal actions by giving workers two paychecks — one for the first 40 hours worked and a second for overtime hours paid at straight-time rates.

They investigated the company’s payroll records from April 20, 2019, through Sept. 25, 2021.

“Rancho Carwash’s operator denied workers their overtime pay and then attempted to hide their illegal pay practices,” Gayane Aleksanian, assistant director for the department’s Wage and Hour Division in West Covina, said in a statement. “The costly consequences for their violations and their attempt to evade the law are now clear.”

The division also learned workers were required to take one-hour lunch breaks as customer demand dictated. Their meal breaks were often interrupted as a result, although the company still deducted an average of four hours per week for the breaks, labor officials said.

That constituted violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Representatives with MG Petroleum could not be reached for comment.

The investigation led to the recovery of $101,096 in back wages and an equal amount of $101,096 in damages for the affected workers. The amount each employee received was based on the number of hours worked.

In this case, payouts ranged from $450 to $43,800, labor officials said.

“As employers continue to struggle to find the people they need to operate their businesses, those who respect workers’ rights to be paid their full wages and avoid violations are more likely to succeed in retaining and recruiting employees,” Aleksanian said.

In fiscal 2021, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $138 million in unpaid overtime. That same year, nearly $26 million in minimum-wage violations were recovered, the agency said.

Rancho Carwash isn’t the only carwash where wage theft has been uncovered.

Earlier this month, nearly two dozen Long Beach carwash workers received more than $200,000 in reimbursed wages after a lengthy state investigation into a now-defunct company revealed several labor violations dating back to at least 2017.

The owners of Klassic Car Wash & Detail Center and Castle Carwash failed to pay its workers minimum or overtime wages and often asked employees to remain on-site without pay during slow hours, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Staff writer Kristy Hutchings contributed to this report.

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