2 SF Burger King owners fined by the state of California

The California state labor commissioner’s office has fined two San Francisco Burger King franchise owners $2.2 million in wage theft citations, which must be paid to 230 former employees.

This ruling comes after Monu Singh and Harkiran Randhawa of the Golden Gate Restaurant Group lost an appeal of the $1.9 million fine issued in June 2020 by the Office of the Labor Commissioner. The quote is now fixed at $2.2 million, which includes accrued interest.

The case originally began in 2019, when a group of Burger King employees in infamous location of 1200 Market St., in downtown San Francisco, “basically quit the job,” according to Alexx Campbell, senior attorney at the nonprofit law firm Legal Aid at Work. Campbell has worked this case from the beginning.

Through their attorney, Colin Calvert of Fisher Phillips law firm, Singh and Randhawa denied any wrongdoing in an email to SFGATE.

“We intend to appeal and believe the decision is not supported by the testimony and evidence obtained,” Calvert wrote.

Former employees allege that Singh and Randhawa knowingly subtracted at least six Burger King San Francisco restaurants under ownership of the Golden Gate Restaurant Group in an effort to cut costs. The practices allegedly created unsustainable working conditions for employees, according to the labor commissioner’s investigation, which was reviewed by SFGATE.

This type of cost-cutting maneuver was not unique to the 1200 Market St. location, the investigation found.

“The violations in question were not isolated instances of the fault of dishonest supervisors, but, based on the evidence, an integral part of a form of operations initiated and/or known to both [owners]”, read the decision of the Office of the Commissioner of Labor.

Employees working at Burger King locations owned by the Golden Gate Restaurant Group said they worked unpaid overtime and worked mandatory breaks as governed by California law. They also claimed that they often acted as cashiers, cleaners and other positions that were not theirs, according to the investigation report.

One cook said she worked overtime because there was no one on staff qualified to cook food safely. Other employees, such as Sonia Crisóstomo, were reportedly asked to arrive earlier and carry out tasks such as depositing money in the bank even after clocking in.

Managers also said they were under intense pressure from restaurateurs to deliver high sales figures while keeping labor costs low, according to the Office of the Commissioner of Labor. Former manager Sandra Gutierrez told investigators she had a regular 10 am to 6 pm shift but often showed up earlier and worked later “because there weren’t enough people to run the store,” the investigation report said.

She allegedly did not record these overtime hours, however, due to pressures to keep labor costs down.

The investigation also concluded that employees were often paid “10 days after the end of the biweekly pay period”.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office claimed that Singh and Randhawa were aware of multiple complaints about manpower shortages stemming from staffing and management, but would not increase staffing levels “unless sales are higher”.

The investigation found that owners consistently changed employee time cards after the fact and attributed the changes to computer “system errors” or labeled “forgot to clock in.”

Other Golden Gate Restaurant Group changes included faking meal break forms to show that staff had taken a break when there was none, and that time recording software was set up to not allow “too many” employees to work. at the same time.

Campbell, senior counsel at Legal Aid at Work, said there have been two investigations by government agencies into Singh and Randhawa. Along with the California Office of the Labor Commissioner’s investigation, the city of San Francisco is investigating the Golden Gate Restaurant Group, although the findings of that investigation have yet to be released, Campbell said.

For now, former Burger King employees will not receive citation money. As Singh and Randhawa plan to appeal this current ruling, the next step in the process involves a higher court determining a final outcome. Singh and Randhawa can appeal each decision all the way to the California Supreme Court, potentially.

“This may take a while before it’s fully resolved,” Campbell said.