A franchisee who operated multiple Burger King locations in San Francisco and has closed down or sold all of its locations in the last two years is on the hook for $1.9 million for a wage-theft citation involving over 200 employees.

Golden Gate Restaurant Group, which operated five Burger King locations in SF between 2016 and 2019, allegedly failed to pay minimum wages, overtime, or allow for proper breaks for its employees. And now, company owner Monu Singh reportedly owes $1.9 million in payments to compensate former employees, in addition to just over $800,000 in a 2020 settlement with the city over healthcare payments.

The $1.9 million citation came from the CA Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020.

Two nonprofits that have been working with the former Burger King staffers, Trabajadores Unidos Workers United and Legal Aid at Work, went public with the story in a press release because they fear Singh may be trying to get out of making the payments. And they say the Labor Commissioner has yet to schedule a hearing in the case.

"Many corporations, especially fast food franchises, disregard labor laws and worker protections in the name of increasing profit," said attorney Kim Ouilette with Legal Aid at Work, in a statement. "Then, when workers are brave enough to speak up and enforce their rights, these corporations try to shift assets or even go out of business entirely to avoid liability, and then open up under a new name."

It's not clear if this is what Golden Gate Restaurant Group is attempting to do, and the Chronicle says it reached out to Singh for comment on Monday morning and did not get a reply.

SFist finds that Singh's company owned the infamous Burger King at Market and Grove streets that shut down in 2019 following numerous health code violations — but these labor issues may have been present there as well.

Golden Gate also owned the Burger Kings at 819 Van Ness Avenue — which is now apparently under new ownership — and the location at 1701 Fillmore Street. In total, the company owned almost a dozen Burger Kings around the Bay Area, but it has now sold or closed all five of its SF locations.

"I worked at the Burger King on Fillmore for seven years where you couldn't take breaks and lunches, [and] you had to clock out and continue working without pay to get the job done," says former employee Adriana Rendon in a release. "I worked under conditions where one could not take sick leave from work without retaliation. I knew that this was unjust and I came together with my coworkers to organize ourselves and raise our voices to demand what they owed us and to stop these abuses."

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 17% of workers in low-wage jobs are the victims of wage theft, and that in total, $8 billion is stolen annually from workers in the ten most populous states.

In San Francisco, multiple wage-theft stories, often involving recent immigrants unfamiliar with California labor laws, have arisen in recent years. Z&Y Restaurant in Chinatown was the most recent to make headlines, with a wage-theft case that was brought this past summer amounting to $1.6 million. Popular dim sum destination Yank Sing was made to pay $4 million in lost wages to a group of workers in 2014 over similar claims, and the company behind Burma Superstar, Burma Love, and its offshoots settled a class-action suit in 2020 with 353 current and former workers to the tune of $1.3 million.

Photo: Joe Kukura/SFist