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Employers Sent to Jail for Failure to Pay Overtime

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Santa Ana, CACalifornia overtime laws are designed to ensure that vulnerable employees, such as domestic workers, who are frequently victims of the violations of California labor law overtime, receive proper overtime pay. Failure to pay overtime wages to employees can result in jail time, as a California couple discovered last month.

The owners of a cleaning service were taken into custody on October 30 and released on November 3 after promising to pay $30,000 by November 5. The owners of the cleaning service failed to comply with a court order demanding that they pay their employees $3.5 million in back wages, interest and fines, plus more than $1 million in liquidated damages.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of at least 385 workers, alleged that the company, Southern California Maid Service & Carpet Cleaning, misclassified its workers as independent contractors, denying them overtime pay and minimum wages. According to an article published on November 8 in Occupational Health & Safety, the couple, Sergio Maldonado and Lorenza Rubio, were ordered to pay the workers $3.5 million in back wages and an additional $1 million in liquidated damages in August, 2007.

However, the couple did not pay up. In September, 2008, the Department of Labor filed civil contempt charges against the company. As of April of 2009, the court has ordered daily fines of $2,400 from the company and $200 per day from both Maldonado and Rubio. Their failure to make the payments resulted in their arrest at the end of October.

The couple was released with the order that they pay $30,000 by November 5 and the remaining amount by November 12.

"It is unconscionable that an employer would continue to disregard the obligation to pay vulnerable workers, even after being ordered to do so by a federal judge," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, as quoted in Occupational Health & Safety.

Domestic workers often face poor working conditions and inadequate pay for their work, although those issues are more often associated with live-in domestic workers, who are isolated from other domestic workers and sometimes encounter physical abuse, extremely low pay, and long hours. The difficulty of enforcing the rights of live-in domestic workers means that the abuse frequently goes unnoticed.

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