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Feds sue Santa Ana car wash for allegedly underpaying workers

August 14, 2012 | 12:39 pm

A Santa Ana car wash company is being sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly repeatedly failing to properly pay employees for all their hours worked.

The suit against Z&H Happy Hands Corp. at 1205 W. 17th St. claims Happy Hands had workers swipe magnetic cards to register their work times with a timekeeping program. But, the lawsuit alleges, the owners then changed the electronic data to register fewer hours worked.

The result, according to the lawsuit, was that the company at times paid workers less than half the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and did not pay all the overtime due to some 81 workers named in the suit.

A Times telephone call to the car wash, seeking comment from Happy Hands’ owners Zohrab Kalaydjian and his son, Hovsep Kalaydjian, was not returned.

The suit comes as authorities have cracked down on practices that exploit workers -– many of whom are illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America -- at California car washes, and unions have organized car wash workers.

In January, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris announced eight car washes would be paying workers more than $1 million for under-paying workers, denying them rest and meal breaks and creating false records of time worked.

In May, four workers sued a chain of three car washes -– in Venice, Santa Monica and Lakewood -- for nonpayment of wages and overtime.

Meanwhile, three car washes in Santa Monica and South Los Angeles have unionized.

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-- Sam Quinones

twitter.com/samquinones7

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