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Car Wash Blues Turn Green with $1 Million Settlement

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San Ramon, CAIt is a victory for anyone who has ever worked for a car wash in California that ignored overtime pay laws. In a settlement announced by the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California, a total of eight car washes throughout the state will pay in excess of $1 million after accusations by workers that they were denied pay.

According to the Contra Costa Times (01/10/12), a lawsuit accused Sponges Car Wash, located in San Ramon, of routinely failing to pay minimum wage. When employees worked extra hours, plaintiffs allege that Sponges and seven other car washes throughout the state failed to pay them overtime according to overtime laws.

In the unpaid overtime lawsuit, the defendants were accused of creating false records for the tracking of work hours, and failed to compensate employees for wages owed after they resigned.

The settlement was announced by Kamala Harris, the Attorney General for the State of California.

Besides Sponges in San Ramon, the seven other car washes embroiled in the California overtime law litigation were located in various pockets of the state, including Fair Oaks, Folsom, Irvine, Laguna Hills, Santa Monica and Venice.

Aside from the fact that working in a car wash does not require a great deal of skill, the fact remains that washing cars can be grueling work, with few breaks and less-than-satisfactory conditions. Constant dampness can adversely affect arthritic joints. The work can be hot and tedious. Customers can be demanding.

Car washes will often fail to possess the required licenses under statutes governed by the Labor Commissioner.

Car wash operators have been found in the past to flaunt overtime pay laws and other employment statutes by hiring unskilled or transient workers, and sometimes illegal aliens. Many times, a worker will not complain, out of fear over losing his job.

In the settlement, at least $800,000 of the $1 million-plus settlement will be directed to workers alleged to have been underpaid. Court records indicate that the remaining funds will be directed to pay taxes and penalties in the unpaid overtime violation.

Overtime pay laws exist to protect the worker from unscrupulous employers bent on increasing profits on the backs of workers through unfair treatment. Overtime pay lawsuits are often the only way to bring such employers to justice. In similar fashion, workers' compensation settlements can benefit employees denied benefits after being injured on the job.


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