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MALDEF Sues Santa Monica Car Wash Owners

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Monday against the owners of three Santa Monica-area car wash facilities for allegedly depriving their Latino workers of pay they earned.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing, Millennium Car Wash and Bumble Bee Car Wash by attorneys for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The suit was brought on behalf of Esteban Carmona, Marcial Carmona, Pedro Cruz and Anselmo Leyva, who seek compensation for allegedly being forced to often work off the clock, without overtime pay and without rest or meal breaks.

The suit, which seeks to add additional plaintiffs with similar claims of failure to pay wages, also asks for a court order prohibiting the businesses from continuing to engage in alleged unlawful labor practices.

A representative for Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing could not be immediately reached. A woman who answered the phone at Millennium Car Wash said the company management was not on-site and she did not know their reaction to the suit.

The labor policies and practices maintained by the employers resulted in thousands of hours of free labor at each car wash, according to the plaintiffs.

Employees were expected to report to work early to prepare for the day, to work off the clock and were only permitted to work on the clock when the employer felt there were enough customers to justify payment for work, the suit alleges.

Workers who did not report to work early were punished in various ways, according to the suit, which alleges the car wash owners also required employees to buy materials for work and intentionally issued   inaccurate work records in an effort to conceal unlawful labor practices.

State law requires that employees get a meal break after no more than five hours of work or that they receive compensation for the day the meal is not provided, according to the suit, which alleges that management at the car washes prohibited meal breaks or delayed them past the five hour cut-off without compensation.