Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo on Tuesday filed criminal charges against the owners and executives of carwashes in the Hollywood area, alleging multiple violations of labor laws.
The 176-count criminal complaint against car wash owners Benny and Nissan Pirian, their four car wash businesses and manager Manuel Reyes charges them with "repeatedly and willfully violating labor laws and creating a work environment that bordered on indentured servitude," according to a press release from Delgadillo's office. Reyes was accused of brandishing a machete and a club in two separate incidents.
If found guilty on all counts, the Pirian brothers could face 86 years in jail and fines of at least $130,000.
The Pirian brothers own three car washes in the Hollywood area: Celebrity Car Wash on Vine Street, Hollywood Car Wash on Sunset Boulevard and Vermont Hand Wash on Vermont Avenue; they also own Five Star Car Wash in Northridge.
Attempts to reach the Pirian brothers early Tuesday afternoon at two of their car washes were unsuccessful. One worker who answered the phone said the brothers were "in an all-day meeting."
The criminal filing stems from a joint investigation between the City Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Labor. It followed a campaign by organized labor that has targeted the Pirian-owned car-washes, which labor leaders have called the most egregious violators of wage and hour laws in the car wash industry.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit:
- Many workers at the four car washes are paid a flat rate of between $35 to $40 per day, a level that would be below the state and federal minimum wages assuming eight-hour workdays.
- Workers are not paid for overtime work.
- Workers were discouraged from taking meal and rest breaks.
- Owners and managers at the carwashes failed to arrange for necessary medical treatment for injured workers.
The lawsuit also alleges that management at the four car washes routinely harassed workers trying to form a union.
Last year, the Pirian brothers and the four car wash businesses they operate were the targets of a class-action lawsuit filed by Bet Tzedek Legal Services and the law firm of Bush Gottlieb Singer Lopez Kohanski Adelstein & Dickinson on behalf of an estimated 250 current and former car wash workers. The suit, which is pending, alleged that the employers of the car washes failed to pay minimum wage, overtime and also denied workers meal and rest breaks.
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