Ch’King! More than 200 Burger King workers are entitled to a whopping $2.2 million in unpaid back wages after winning an appeal to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, and the Burger King franchise operator would have saved $370,000 had they just not appealed the case.
Folks may remember the notoriously nasty Civic Center Burger King, which closed abruptly in October 2019, and we all figured that was likely because of the place’s myriad health code violations. But there may have been more to the story, as we then learned a couple years later there had been an ongoing wage theft investigation into that particular Burger King franchise operator, for which the California Labor Commissioner’s Office ordered them to pay $1.9 million to underpaid employees in 2020.
That franchise operator, Golden Gate Restaurant Group (owned by Monu Singh and Harkiran Randhawa) appealed the $1.9 million ruling against them. This did not work out, and now the Chronicle reports that the appeal resulted in a $2.2 million wage theft ruling against the Burger King franchise operator, which includes an additional $371,000 tacked on in interest.
The basics of the case are that the Golden Gate Restaurant Group intentionally understaffed its restaurants, forcing managers to keep labor costs within a certain percentage of sales. When they couldn’t, the group allegedly found ways to underpay workers to stay within said percentages.
“The state investigation found records supporting workers’ allegations, including time card reports that showed Golden Gate Restaurant Group had changed when employees clocked in or out after the fact, attributing the changes to factors like ‘system error’ and ‘forgot to clock in,’” the Chronicle reports. “Other forms were ‘falsified’ to show that staff had taken meal breaks when they hadn’t, the Labor Commissioner found.”
As one manager told the Chronicle, “The only way of reaching those goals was by not having people working on the system.”
Employees say the only times when the franchises were properly staffed was when Burger King corporate was coming by for investigations.
For their part, attorneys for the Golden Gate Restaurant Group say the Labor Commissioner’s Office inquiry into the matter was “poorly executed” and contained “glaring errors.” They vow to appeal again.
“They were not intentionally understaffed,” one restaurant group attorney told the Chronicle. “At no point during meetings were any managers told … to cut hours or staff such that employees couldn’t take meal breaks, rest breaks, to have employees work overtime or off the clock.”
Yes, the group can appeal yet again, but they will first have to pay $822,524 bond to cover some of the damages.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Group no longer operates any Burger King franchises in San Francisco, but at its peak, it ran that Civic Center Burger King, as well as locations at 1701 Fillmore Street, 1298 Howard Street, 4780 Mission Street, 1690 Valencia Street, and 819 Van Ness Avenue.
Image: Robert T. via Yelp