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Wholesale bakery commits wage theft violations

A wholesale bakery based in Vista, San Diego, was cited for several wage violations, with assessments totaling more than $185,000. According to an investigation, Cookies con Amore, which sells its gourmet cookies to gourmet grocery stores and Whole Foods, consistently withheld overtime pay, rest and meal breaks from 73 workers, and compelled a number of them to sign a statement consenting to the wage theft violations. Interviews of employees and an audit revealed that such violations occurred between October 2013 and December 2014.

Although workers labored for shifts of 10 or more hours, they were compensated at straight time, and did not receive any overtime pay. They were permitted just one 30-minute break without any other rest period or break for a second meal. If the workers did not sign the statement agreeing to the unfair working conditions, they were directed to seek other employment.

The investigation by the Labor Commissioner was conducted in response to complaints received from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), which is a non-profit program focusing on legal services. The Office of the Labor Commissioner, which is officially called the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, examines workplaces to determine whether any wage and hour violations have been committed, adjudicates wage claims and enforces wage rates in public works projects. It also investigates whistleblower and retaliation complaints, provides licenses and registrations for businesses and informs the public about labor laws.

A public awareness campaign called Wage Theft is a Crime was launched in 2014 by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), and has assisted workers in becoming more aware of their rights. The campaign consists of print and outdoor advertising as well as radio commercials on ethnic stations in different languages.

If you think you have been the victim of wage theft, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer.

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