Two brothers who have faced numerous charges of worker exploitation in the Southern California car wash industry have agreed to pay $1 million to settle a long-standing class action that alleged systematic wage and hour violations at their four car washes, attorneys for the workers announced Nov. 9 (Cantor v. Hollywood Car Wash Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., No. BC391252, settlement approved 11/9/11).
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin Nov. 9 granted final approval of the settlement in the case brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the state labor cote. The workers’ attorneys said it was believed to be the largest monetary settlement ever with a car wash employer in California.
The agreement brings to a close the lawsuit filed in early 2009 on behalf of some 400 car wash workers at Benny and Nisan Pirian’s four car washes by Bet Tzedek Legal Services, alleging that “the brothers systematically violated the most basic workplace protections, including minimum-wage and overtime laws, and meal and rest break provisions, among other breaches of state and federal law.”
Specifically, the lawsuit charged that employees at the Pirian brothers’ car washes routinely clocked 10-hour days and were paid less than half the required minimum wage, while others received no pay whatsoever, and worked solely for tips.
In 2009, the Los Angeles city attorney filed a complaint against the Pirians on related charges, and added that the brothers used intimidation, including threats of physical violence, to discourage workers from asserting their rights.
In August 2010, the Pirians entered pleas of no contest to six criminal counts, and were sentenced to a year each in jail.
The California car wash industry, heavily concentrated in Southern California, has been the target of stepped-up state enforcement for years. In sweeps conducted in 2009 and again in 2010, the state labor commissioner issued hundreds of citations, and levied millions of dollars in fines for a wide variety of labor-related violations. 10.16.2011.