A restaurant in California has been ordered to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to employees after it hired a priest to extract workers’ confessions, in what federal investigators are calling “the most shameless” acts of corruption an employer has taken against its staff.
The US Department of Labor said an employee testified that owner Che Garibaldi, who operates two locations of Taqueria Garibaldi in northern California, hired a fake priest to hear confessions during work hours and “get the sins out,” including asking them if they had been late for work, stolen money from the restaurant or had “bad intentions” toward their employer.
“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 Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in the release.
The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento confirmed that they found “no evidence of any connection” between the fake priest and their diocese. “While we don’t know who the person in question was, we are completely confident he was not a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento,” a diocese spokesman told the Catholic News Agency last week.
Garibaldi and three other restaurant owners and operators were ordered to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees. The restaurant will also have to pay $5,000 in civil penalties.
Taqueria Garibaldi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigators also found that the restaurant denied employees overtime pay, managers were paid bonuses from the employee tip pool and some employees faced “adverse immigration consequences” for cooperating with investigators
“This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages,” Pilotin said