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Cheesecake Factory Forced to Pay $4.57 Million to SoCal Janitors For Wage Theft

A 2016 state law requires businesses and its subcontractors to pay fines for labor law violations

Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Thanks to a Monday ruling by the California Labor Commissioner, The Cheesecake Factory and its janitorial subcontractor are required to pay 559 Southern California janitors $4.5 million in lost wages and fines. The state cited and fined the restaurant chain and its subcontractor for illegal practices dating back to 2014. The state found the subcontractor violated labor laws by paying less than minimum wage, denying overtime, forcing janitors to work longer and without pay, and all without proper meal and rest breaks.

The Cheesecake Factory contracted with Americlean Janitorial Services Corp., which subcontracted with Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning to service Cheesecake locations in Brea, Newport Beach, Irvine, Mission Viejo, Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach, and three locations in San Diego. Investigators kept the case to a three-year period, but the janitorial industry watch group Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund discovered $70 million in unpaid wages from the last 20 years.

The suit alleges that janitors started shifts at midnight and worked until morning without breaks, which are mandated by law. Magic Touch workers were not allowed to go home until Cheesecake Factory kitchen managers inspected their work. These inspections often led to additional and unpaid tasks for janitorial staff. Investigators found that janitors logged up to 10 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning’s owner Zulma Villegas will pay $3,936,359 to the workers for these violations. Villegas will also pay $632,750 for civil penalties, including improper filing of itemized pay stubs. The Commissioner reported that Villegas recently changed her business name to Z’s Commercial Quality Cleaning, but both businesses are subject to the citations.

The Cheesecake Factory case is the first to fall under SB 588. Authored by state senator Kevin De Leon in 2016, the law holds all parties accountable for any labor violations. In other words, Cheesecake Factory will pay for the mistakes of its subcontractors. The current ruling reveals a pattern of labor violations with janitors. In 2007, a Cheesecake Factory subcontractor paid janitors $14 million in damages, and a group of janitors privately sued to reclaim unpaid wages from another subcontractor in 2012.

The Cheesecake Factory

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