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Owners of Gardena maid service taken into custody, ordered to pay back wages

November 4, 2009 | 12:58 pm

The owners of a Gardena maid service were taken into custody after failing to comply with a court order to pay $3.5 million in back wages plus interest, fines and liquidated damages to more than 385 workers.

Sergio Maldonado and Lorenza Rubio turned themselves in to the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Friday, said Deanne Amaden, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor. They were released Tuesday after appearing in court and agreeing to pay $30,000 by Nov. 5, Amaden said.

Maldonado and Rubio have until Nov. 12 to pay the remaining balance of the money they owe, she said. If they cannot pay and are unable prove why, they could face incarceration.

Following an investigation by the Labor Department, the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana determined that the couple's company, Southern California Maid Service and Carpet Cleaning Inc., had wrongly classified its home and carpet cleaners as independent contractors, Amaden said. The company failed to pay workers the federally required minimum wage or overtime.

On Aug. 21, 2007, the court awarded back wages to the workers. In September 2008, labor attorneys filed for civil contempt charges for continued failure to comply with the order. In April, the court ordered daily fines against the company of $2,000, plus an additional $200 per day each from Maldonado and Rubio.

Still, the company failed to make any payments to the department or the workers, Amaden said.

The West Covina district office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division first learned of the employer’s practices through its Employment Education and Outreach partnership, a toll-free line which assists Spanish-speaking workers and employers with work-related concerns.

-- Nicole Santa-Cruz