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Santa Monica Prosecutors Resolve Second Case of Minimum Wage Law Violations

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 24, 2018 -- Santa Monica City prosecutors announced Tuesday they have resolved a case involving dozens of violations of the City’s 2016 higher minimum-wage law at a janitorial/security services company licensed in the city.

Merchants Building Maintenance LLC was charged with failing to pay 36 employees the City's correct minimum wage.

The City Attorney’s Office said the county Department of Consumer and Business Affairs -- contracted as the Wage Enforcement Division of the City – tried for many months and made “numerous attempts” to win voluntary compliance of Santa Monica’s minimum-wage law from Merchants, but without success.

After charging the company administratively with dozens of violations of Santa Monica’s minimum wage law, Merchants admitted to all violations on January 19, the City said.

Merchants admitted to every wage violation as chargedand agreed to pay full restitution to the 36 affected employees, totaling more than $23,000, the City said.

It also agreed to pay $36,000 in penalties, City officials said.

“This is a positive and fair result,” said Chief Deputy City Attorney Yibin Shen, who led prosecution of the case.

“It is paramount in each of our wage enforcement cases that the affected employees receive full restitution for their back wages and that the employer is educated about the City’s wage laws,” he said. “This case successfully achieved both results.”

It was the second case resolved by City prosecutors involving employers in Santa Monica who were failing to pay the higher minimum wage.

The inaugural case that involved a successful resolution was in November ("Marriott Hotel Gift Shop Owner Becomes First Convicted of Violating Santa Monica Higher Minimum Wage Law," November 28, 2017).

In that case, the owner of a gift shop in Marriott Hotel on Ocean Avenue was convicted of "egregious" violations of the law.

A plea of no contest was entered by the owner, who was placed on probation, ordered to pay back wages, costs for prosecutors and perform community service.

Under the City’s law, employees in business with 26 or more workers were to pay $10.50 an hour in 2016 (compared to the state minimum wage of $10 hourly at that time) and then $12 an hour as of July 2017, versus the state’s $10.50.

By July of this year, the wage increases to $13.25 an hour. The 2018 state rate is $12 ("Santa Monica City Council Votes to Hike Hourly Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour by 2020," January 14, 2016).

Several cities across the country raised their minimum wages at the same as Santa Monica, including L.A., Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose and San Leandro.

Santa Monica has also vowed to rigorously enforce the law, although the City first tries to educate employers and uses the courts as a last resort.

“Combating growing income inequality and improving the welfare of the City’s workers are core objectives of the City’s Minimum Wage Laws,” Shen said.

“We look forward to continuing our aggressive education and enforcement of the City’s Minimum Wage Laws.”

Violations of the Santa Monica Minimum Wage Law can be reported by contacting the Santa Monica Wage Enforcement Program of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at 800-593-8222.


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