Confessional window. Image Credit: Getty Images
A restaurant hired a “priest” to “get the sins out” of its workers in an elaborate scheme to figure out if they had been late to work, stolen anything from the company, or done anything else to harm their employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The restaurant, Taqueria Garibaldi in Sacramento, was being investigated by the DOL for supposedly violating labor law by denying workers overtime pay. During the investigation, the Department learned that the restaurant had illegally paid managers from the employee tip pool, and threatened workers with “retaliation and adverse immigration consequences” if they cooperated with the investigation, the press release stated.
It also learned, as one employee testified in federal court, that the restaurant had invited a person who was identified as a priest to come to the workplace during working hours and urge workers to “get the sins out,” the release stated. The alleged priest asked employees if they had stolen from the restaurant, been late to work, done anything to harm management, or had any “bad intentions” towards it.
“Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered a supposed priest to hear their workplace ‘sins’ while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department’s investigation,” said Marc Pilotin, the regional solicitor of labor in San Francisco, in a statement at the time. “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages.”
The restaurant owners agreed to pay $140,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to the 35 employees in the restaurant, as well as an additional $5,000 to the Department of Labor because of the “willful nature of their violations” of labor law, the press release stated.
Subscribe to the VICE newsletter.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.