A taco restaurant has been fined USD 140,000 after it hired a fake priest to get its workers to confess to workplace ‘sins’.
Bosses at the Taqueria Garibaldi in Sacramento, California, USA, used the priest to get the employees’ trust and then ask them if they’d ever been late or drunk.
The scam emerged as workers sued the company for lost back wages and damages.
Judges ordered the restaurant’s parent company Che Garibaldi Inc to pay compensation and lost wages to 35 employees after a hearing on 12th June.
The court ruling followed after an investigation that showed that three branches of the taco chain were guilty of multiple work violations against their staff.
The bizarre fake priest scam emerged when one former worker told how the bogus cleric began asking staff to confess to stealing, drinking on the job or shirking.
They said in a written statement: “I decided to talk to the priest, but as soon as the confession started, I found the conversation to be strange and unlike normal confessions, where I would tell a priest about the sins I wanted to confess.
“The priest told me that he would instead ask me questions to get the sins out of me.
“The priest mostly had work-related questions, which I thought was strange.”
Employees later told investigators that the three branches had refused to pay overtime even if they worked more than 40 hours a week.
The US Department of Labor also discovered that bosses also raided the tip jars to pay bonuses to managers.
Anyone complaining was threatened with being reported to US immigration officials.
Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered a supposed priest to hear their workplace ‘sins’ while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department’s investigation.
“This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages.”
During litigation at federal court, the employer agreed to a consent judgment and was ordered to pay USD 140,000 in back wages and damages (GBP 109,283).
In addition, the court ordered the restaurant and its owners to pay the department USD 5,000 [GBP 3,902] in civil money penalties due to the willful nature of their violations.
Pilotin added: “The US Department of Labor and its Solicitor’s Office will not tolerate workplace retaliation and will act swiftly to make clear that immigration status has no bearing on workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”