A federal court has ordered the owners of 14 Subway locations near San Francisco to pay their employees nearly $1 million in damages and back pay. The owners, John and Jessica Meza, have also been instructed to either sell or close down their businesses, with any proceeds from the sale going to the Department of Labor. The court found that the Mezas had violated numerous labor laws, including employing children as young as 14 to operate dangerous machinery and assigning minors work hours that contravened federal regulations. Additionally, the owners were accused of issuing hundreds of bad checks, illegally keeping customer tips, and attempting to coerce employees not to cooperate with the Labor Department’s investigation.
The Labor Department also named Hamza Ayesh, an associate of the Mezas, as playing a role in coercing employees and threatening a worker who complained about receiving a bad check. While the Mezas did not admit to the allegations of threats or coercion, their lawyer, Arkady Itkin, stated that they did acknowledge issuing bad checks and violating some labor standards. Itkin also mentioned that Ayesh did not admit to threatening the employee but agreed to settle the situation to put it to rest, describing it as a “he said, she said situation.”
However, Itkin argued that the Mezas, who he described as individuals of limited financial means, are unlikely to be able to pay the agreed-upon sum stated in the court order. He emphasized that the settlement agreement may give the impression that they will easily pay the million dollars, but he believes that such a scenario is unlikely to occur.
In conclusion, the owners of several Subway franchises north of San Francisco have been hit with a substantial penalty by a federal court. The court’s decision stems from violations of labor laws, including endangering young employees, failing to pay workers regularly, and withholding customer tips. Additionally, attempts to interfere with the Labor Department’s investigation were alleged. While some admissions were made by the owners and a settlement was reached regarding coercion allegations against an associate, their lawyer argues that they are unlikely to be able to pay the significant sum specified in the court order.