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Torrance Car Wash Is Fined More Than $800,000 For Wage Theft

A small red car with a hatchback is covered in soap suds and moves through a car wash tunnel. Blue scrubbers spin and wipe both sides of the vehicle, which is approaching another scrubber for the top.
Torrance Car Wash, not pictured, must pay a more than $800,000 fine after an investigation found the business had stolen employees wages.
(Camilo Jimenez
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Torrance Car Wash engaged in wage theft violations affecting 35 workers, according the findings of a California Labor Commissioners investigation. Now the company is being fined $815,311.

The investigation concluded some employees were only paid for about 80 hours in a pay period even though they had worked beyond that. Others were forced to wait before clocking in and were never compensated for their waiting time, they had been called to work.

Flor Rodriguez, executive director of the Clean Car Wash Worker Center, said her organization does regular outreach to car wash workers about their rights.

"That's how we were able to get workers who came and talked to us about the conditions at Torrance Car Wash," Rodriguez said. "Workers shared that there [were] large levels of wage theft, that often times, the workers were not being paid for all the hours that they worked."

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L.A. County is home to more than 10,000 car wash workers, according to Rodriguez. Her organization has about 1,500 members, and she said almost every one of them has experienced some form of wage theft.

"It's something that's very common in the industry, for workers to get asked to show up at the car wash at a certain time to wait, and then as the car wash gets busy throughout the day, then more workers are pulled in to work," she said.

Rodriguez said the practice is so common, some workers do not realize they should be paid during the times they are waiting and not actively working on cars.

Now, Rodriguez said she hopes the findings of the investigation will empower other workers to come out of the shadows to stop wage theft in the car wash industry.

“We really hope that this [sends] a strong message…to other car wash workers, but also to car wash owners, right? Car wash owners who continue to have really bad practices,” she said.

LAist reached out to Torrance Car Wash for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

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