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Restaurant used alleged 'priest' to hear employees' confessions about workplace 'sins': Labor Department
Main: Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images/stock photo | Inset: Screenshot of KCRA 3 YouTube video

Restaurant used alleged 'priest' to hear employees' confessions about workplace 'sins': Labor Department

An investigation into allegations of unpaid wages at a California restaurant uncovered yet another alleged scheme that extended beyond employees' income all the way to their very souls. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the owners and operators of Taqueria Garibaldi attempted to intimidate their ostensibly Catholic employees by having them confess workplace "sins" to a supposed priest.

Che Garibaldi Inc., which owns Garibaldi locations in Sacramento and Roseville, introduced employees to "a person identified as a priest" and encouraged them to go to him for confession "during work hours," a press release from the DOL said.

Maria Parra, an employee at the restaurant, testified in federal court about her experience with the alleged priest. "As soon as the confession started, I found the conversation to be strange and unlike normal confessions, where I would tell a priest about the sins I wanted to confess," Parra claimed.

The supposed priest was interested only in work-related "sins" and prodded participating employees — many of whom likely believed at the time that they were participating in a sacramental confession and would afterward be absolved of all their sins, in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church — to "get the sins out," the DOL statement said. The "priest" frequently asked employees whether they had arrived to work on time, stolen anything, or harbored "bad intentions" toward their employer.

The DOL press called the priest scam "among the most shameless" the agency had ever seen. Regional solicitor of labor Marc Pilotin called the restaurant owners' behavior "despicable."

In addition to the workplace "priest," whose identity has not been revealed, the restaurant and owners illegally paid managers' wages using money taken from an employee tip pool, withheld appropriate overtime wages, and threatened to contact immigration authorities on employees or otherwise retaliate against them if they cooperated in the DOL's investigation, the agency said. At least one employee was reportedly fired because the restaurant owners suspected he or she "had complained" to the DOL.

According to a consent judgment from Judge William B. Shubb in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Che Garibaldi Inc., Taqueria Garibaldi, and owners Eduardo Hernandez, Hector Manual Martinez Galindo, and Alejandro Rodriguez agreed to pay a total of $70,000 in backpay to 35 employees, another $70,000 in damages, and a $5,000 fee to the DOL. The fee is a civil penalty "due to the willful nature of their violations," the press release said. Should the defendants fail to make the agreed payments, they will be hit with a 10% annual interest rate as well.

The New York Post contacted one restaurant owner for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Sacramento-area taqueria that used priest for ‘workplace sins’ confessions ordered to pay $140Kwww.youtube.com

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