The Lowes Enterprises Inc.-owned property agreed on April 26 to pay $2.1 million to settle a proposed class action brought by about 400 former and current employees who accused Terranea of California labor law violations, including failure to provide meal and rest breaks and then inserting "fake breaks" into their time records, according to court documents.
Fake Break Complaint
The meal and rest break claim goes back to 2017 when two former employees, Galen Landsberg and Marvin Alvarenga claimed the hotel refused their meal and rest breaks and ordered them to show on their time records that they had indeed taken them. So employees were allegedly ordered to fake their breaks.
Other California Labor Law Violations
Along with meal and rest break violations the lawsuit also alleged that some employees took 15 minutes to dress in uniform before their shifts began, known as “donning and doffing”, without being compensated for their time. (Donning and doffing is a violation of the California labor code.)
Some worked even longer days without full pay: the lawsuit further alleged that employees had to take a company shuttle from a distant parking lot where they had to show up 30 minutes before starting their work shift—they weren’t paid for the commute.
And there’s more: workers claimed in the lawsuit that they had to “constantly monitor and respond to work-related emails and texts while off the clock.”
Along with these various forms of wage theft, the California labor lawsuit also alleged failure to reimburse employees for basic tools needed for the job. Cooks had to supply their own knives, graters, and other tools because Terranea did not provide them. One former cook, Freddy Lovato, told the media that workers didn’t get rest breaks. Lovato was fired in August 2018, allegedly because of his statements to the press. A few months after his termination, the National Labor Relations Board filed complaint alleging that the company’s firing of Lovato was illegal.
And this isn’t the first time that Terranea has been in trouble. Lowe Enterprises settled a similar class action lawsuit in 2013 for $1.125 million.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
A sexual harassment and assault lawsuit was filed in 2018 at the height of the #MeToo movement against the resort and Terranea’s staffing agency. Sandra Pezqueda, a former dishwasher and chef’s assistant, accused an agency supervisor of sexual harassment and assault in 2016 and after reporting the incident, Pezqueda said she was fired, reported the Los Angeles Times and various other publications.
The high-profile case resulted in Time Magazine featuring Pezqueda as one of the “silence breakers” and she was named the magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year. Pezqueada received a settlement of $250,000 from Terranea’s staffing agency, but the resort was not implicated in any wrongdoing.
The Associated Press(June 4) said that Pezqueda and other Terranea employees “have also championed an effort to establish by ballot measure a policy in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, which would require large hospitality employers like Terranea and the Trump National Golf Course to provide employees with panic buttons to summon immediate assistance if confronted with a threat.” Terranea is opposed to such efforts.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta and California NOW launched a boycott of Terranea in 2018 after other women came forward with allegations similar to those of Pezqueda. The California Democratic Party on June 2, 2019 passed a resolution to endorse the #MeToo boycott of the Terranea Resort, according to AP.
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Not everyone believes in the boycott. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce announced on June 5, 2019 that Terranea is the recipient of their inaugural Economic Development Impact Award. The award was created to “recognize the broad, positive economic impact in the region through job creation, tax revenue and support of local nonprofit organizations”. Since opening in 2009, Terranea has become the largest employer on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The press release says the resort “cultivated a work culture of encouragement and growth” and two of its many awards are “Top Employer in Los Angeles County" and "Best Hospitality Company to Work For" from the Los Angeles News Group.