Case Stories: January - April 2018

JANUARY

On January 10, 2018, OLS settled a case involving Tacos Guaymas, a restaurant chain with four locations in Seattle arising from its multiple violations of the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (PSST). The restaurant agreed to pay a total of $25,854.17, comprised of $21,165.48 in back wages plus interest, $2,388.29 in liquidated damages, and $2,300.40 in penalties. Post-settlement update: Several months after the case closed, Tacos Guaymas defaulted on the payment plan it had agreed to in settlement. After OLS arranged to have its business license revoked, the restaurant agreed to make good on its agreement to pay. 

The Jack in the Box in Seattle's University District was not consistently offering paid rest breaks to employees as the law requires. In a settlement agreement executed on January 19, 2018, the company agreed to pay 49 employees in the total amount of $11,999.81, representing the unpaid wages for the missed breaks.

On January 19, 2018, OLS settled a Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) case with Xerox Corporation. Although there was no financial remedy, the employer agreed to comply with the ordinance and develop a written PSST policy.

On January 25, 2018, OLS settled with Rhein Haus (formerly Von Trapps), a restaurant and bar. Although OLS did not discover evidence of rest break issues as originally alleged, OLS did discover instances of minimum wage violations. The employer conducted an internal audit for minimum wage compliance during the investigation, and ultimately agreed to pay a total remedy of $1,433.19 in retroactive wages, interest, and penalties to 35 employees.

On January 25, 2018, OLS entered a Determination and Order against Third Day Performance Builders for violations of the Minimum Wage and Wage Theft ordinances. OLS determined that three employees were owed retroactive wages and interest totaling $2,137.92 for performing work without compensation. OLS also assessed $1,000 in civil penalties and fines due to the City of Seattle.

On January 25, 2018, OLS settled with Sound Seismic to resolve a Fair Chance Employment (FCE) investigation. The employer agreed to pay $50 in civil penalties to the City of Seattle, develop a written FCE policy, amend its job advertisements to ensure compliance with the FCE ordinance, and attend management training.

OLS investigated and discovered that from 2013 to 2017, Starbucks Corporation's attendance policy improperly reduced the shift-bidding rank of call center employees when protected sick leave was used. This practice caused 59 workers to receive less favorable schedules for taking time off due to illness. In a settlement executed on January 31, 2018, Starbucks agreed to provide the following: $40.00 (in net pay) to each affected employee (for a total of $2,360); a $500.00 first violation penalty; changes to its PSST policy to eliminate caps on use; and timely and complete notification of PSST-protected rights for employees.

FEBRUARY

In February, OLS settled a case with Delite Bakery based on the store's multiple violations of the Wage Theft, Minimum Wage and PSST ordinances. In the largest settlement in OLS history, the employer agreed to pay a total remedy of $577,043.29 that includes retroactive wages, penalties and interest over a five-year payment plan. The settlement requires an initial payment of $249,427.14 in retroactive wages to 18 employees followed by additional distributions every six months. Delite will also pay $11,500 in penalties owed to the City, money that OLS will use to fund linguistically and culturally appropriate compliance monitoring and training for the business and its employees.

On February 13, 2018, OLS settled a matter with Blue Moon Burgers, Inc., a local Seattle restaurant with four locations. The restaurant committed a number of violations: it failed to pay the minimum wage for the first three months of 2016; it failed to pay overtime in 2015; and it failed credit employees with the required amounts of PSST. Under the agreed upon settlement, 20 employees will receive a total of $3,676, which covers unpaid minimum wages, 25% liquidated damages, interest, overtime, and three hours of PSST.

In its investigation of WS Contractors, OLS found the company in violation of the PSST ordinance. In a settlement agreement executed on February 16, 2018, WS Contractors agreed to pay former and current employees retroactive wages and interest totaling $2,906.52. The settlement will benefit the 12 employees impacted by the violations.

On February 16, 2018, OLS resolved its investigation of Herb & Bitter, Rocco's and Stylus, two restaurants and a hair salon under common ownership. Respondents admitted to not providing PSST for any of their businesses but came into compliance during the investigation by correcting its PSST policy, providing PSST at the proper accrual rate, and giving notice to employees of their PSST balance pay stubs. The settlement requires retroactive increases in PSST balances for 120 employees and a total reimbursement to employees of $22,770. OLS also assessed a $750.00 penalty for a first violation.

On February 20, 2018, OLS settled a case with Seattle hair salon Habitude. The salon, which has two locations in the city, failed to pay commissioned employees the minimum wage between April 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017. Employees were also not allowed to accrue PSST until day 90 of their employment (Note: PSST use, but not accrual, can be so restricted). Remedies include retroactive wages for 53 employees for minimum wage, plus liquidated damages and interest, retroactive PSST accrual. There were 63 employees impacted by the policy change.

MARCH

OLS investigated Seattle Children's Hospital (Children's) for violations of the PSST ordinance. As part of the settlement agreement executed on March 14, 2018, Children's agreed to pay a total of $32,334.33 to 216 affected employees in retroactive pay for missing PSST accruals. In addition to monetary remedies, Children's will develop and distribute a compliant PSST policy to employees and management.

On March 14, 2018, OLS settled a case with 14 Tom Douglas entities for retaliating against 12 employees under the PSST ordinance. Under the companies' six-hour call in policy, employees were disciplined for failing to call in within six hours of the start of their shift, even if the tardiness/ absence was due to reasons protected by PSST Ordinance. The Douglas entities revised the PSST policy prior to the end of the investigation and agreed to pay $10,400 in penalties to affected employees and to remove the PSST-related disciplinary notices from employees' files.

On March 14, 2018, OLS settled a case with Elephant and Castle Pub and Restaurant. The investigation found company-wide violations of the PSST, Minimum Wage, Wage Theft, and Secure Scheduling ordinances. Although Elephant and Castle operates only one location in Seattle, its large worldwide workforce meant that it must be considered a Schedule One employer (and therefore required to pay the higher minimum wage). In settlement, the company agreed to pay 65 current and former Seattle employees a total of $122,753.05 in unpaid compensation, interest, and penalties. In addition to monetary remedies, the employer agreed to correct its PSST policy, and to develop a compliant Secure Scheduling policy.

OLS settled with real estate developer Pryde Johnson on March 29, 2018. Pryde Johnson is based in Greenwood and has projects at different locations in Seattle. They employed 13 people between April 2015 and January 2018. Six employees were impacted by a failure to pay for overtime, and one instance of a failure to pay for all hours worked. The total financial remedy for the benefit of the workers was $1,500.27.

On March 29, 2018, OLS settled with The Art Institute of Seattle to resolve violations of the PSST ordinance. The employer agreed to provide PSST balance notifications, develop a written PSST policy, and attend management training.

APRIL

On April 3, 2018, OLS settled with Optum Services, a large healthcare conglomerate based in Minnesota with 338 employees working in Seattle. The complaint concerned alleged PSST violations. After months of negotiation, Optum agreed to a settlement offer which included total compensation of $1,000.00 in monetary penalties to four affected employees.

OLS initiated a Fair Chance Employment investigation of 3R Technology after discovering a job ad posted by the employer with the following language: "must be absolutely trust-worthy, reliable, and have a clean background check." In a settlement agreement executed on April 4, 2018, the employer agreed to modify its job advertisements to comply with the FCE ordinance, develop a FCE policy, and pay a civil penalty for a first violation of $255.00 to the City of Seattle.

On April 24, 2018, OLS settled an investigation with National Vision, a large optical retailer operating throughout the U.S. with two locations in Seattle. National Vision agreed to pay $484.54 in retroactive wages to three employees for Paid Sick and Safe Time violations; $500.00 in monetary penalties to four employees for minimum wage violations; and agreed to credit 303 retroactive hours of PSST to nine employees. National Vision also agreed to amend its PSST policy to comply with the ordinance.

On April 24, OLS settled a case with Northwest Center for its payment of sub-minimum wages to ten employees, nine with disabilities and one for Fair Chance Employment violations. The employer agreed to pay a total of $40,791 in retroactive wages, unpaid interest and other monetary remedies. Up until last year, employers had been allowed to apply for special certificates from the City of Seattle to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage. These City certificates were issued if the applicant had received a special certificate from the State of Washington. OLS issued a rule in September 2017 that prohibited these special certificates, and no such certificates have been granted since that time. In 2018, a new City ordinance codified that ban into an ordinance. In this case, Northwest Center never applied for or received a special certificate from the City.