A California restaurant has been ordered to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to employees after hiring a priest to extract confessions from workers, in what federal investigators term “the most shameless” acts of corruption an employer has committed against its employees.
According to the US Department of Labor, an employee testified that owner Che Garibaldi, who owns two Taqueria Garibaldi locations in northern California, hired a fake priest to hear confessions during work hours and “get the sins out,” including asking them if they were late for work, stole money from the restaurant, or had “bad intentions” toward their employer.
“Under oath, an employee of Taqueria Garibaldi explained how the restaurant offered a phony 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,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin said in a release.
The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento said that they found “no evidence of any connection” between the bogus 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 spokeswoman told the Catholic News Agency last week.
Garibaldi and three other restaurant owners and operators were forced to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees. The eatery will also have to pay $5,000 in civil penalties.
Taqueria Garibaldi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigators also discovered that the restaurant denied employees overtime compensation, that managers were paid bonuses from the employee tip pool, and that some employees risked “adverse immigration consequences” for collaborating 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.