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Car Wash's Alleged Underpayment To Workers Brings Suit By Jerry Brown

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Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 10:49 AM
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An Echo Park car wash that's been in the news repeatedly for alleged violations of workplace-safety rules and employee compensation standards is being sued by state Attorney General Jerry Brown for $2.6 million, his office announced Tuesday.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today, names Auto Spa Express, Inc., its owner, Jonathan Min Kim, and Sunset Car Wash, LLC., which took over the business recently. The alleged violations, which include failure to pay minimum wage, overtime and payroll taxes (via suspected under-the-table cash payments) happened at Auto Spa Express, 2028 Sunset Blvd., a frequent source of worker complaints.

"Most companies in California comply with state wage and benefit laws, but if you're running a firm that's exploiting your workers in this economy when people are desperate for jobs, we want you to know that we will find you, we will stop you and we will file some of the toughest legal actions in the nation against you," Brown stated.

The Attorney General says the alleged violations, including paying $6.32 an hour (or nothing at all, if business was bad) instead of the state minimum $8, happened from 2006 to 2008. The suit seeks $630,000 in back wages for workers and a $2 million fine for violating California's Unfair Business Act.

Auto Spa Express is no stranger to workers' rights advocates and state officials. Early this year the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited the car wash for health and safety violations, fining it $18,890. Last year the city of Los Angeles canceled its contract to have Auto Spa wash fleet vehicles after workers noted that the owners did not meet the city's living-wage standards, which is part of the deal in doing business with Los Angeles.

[Spotted at LAist].

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