An Orange County businessman and his son have been assessed $4.9 million in back wages and penalties for underpaying 187 workers at their auto towing companies in Anaheim and Oakland, the California Labor Commissioner announced Wednesday, July 26.
Noel Yaqo, owner of Irvine Auto Towing which operated Pride Towing and Recovery in Anaheim, along with his son Aram Yaco, typically paid tow truck drivers, dispatchers and mechanics $110 a day, although they generally worked 12-hour shifts with no meal or rest breaks, the commissioner’s office reported.
Drivers and mechanics also incurred unlawful deductions and were charged for uniforms and for any accidents or damages incurred while working in the field, according to the commissioner’s citations.
“This is an egregious case of wage theft affecting a large group of workers who were denied a just day’s pay and forced to work without meal or rest breaks,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su.
Employers who cheat workers, she added, “gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors.”
Irvine Auto and Yaco Investments, its sister company which owns Stride Towing and Recovery in Oakland, have appealed the citations, according to the labor commissioner.
Pride Towing’s Anaheim phone number has been disconnected. Yaqo and his son (who spells his last name differently) did not respond to messages from the Register.
A manager at Oakland’s Stride Towing did not return a call.
Wage theft is a growing issue in California and nationwide. The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2014 that the minimum wage law is violated in California 372,000 times per week and more than one in 10 workers in California is paid less than the minimum wage.
A May study by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, reported some 2.4 million workers in the nation’s 10 most populous states lose $8 billion a year to minimum wage violations.
California accounts for nearly $1.97 billion of the total,…