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Study Finds Wage Theft Is a Big Problem in San Diego Restaurants

Nearly eight out of 10 surveyed restaurant employees reported the issue.


In a study conducted by the Center on Policy Initiatives and San Diego State University, results show an astonishing 77 percent of San Diego restaurant workers have reported wage theft in the last year. Of the 337 workers surveyed, one-third said wage theft occurs on a regular basis. The most commonly reported type of theft was unpaid, off-the-clock work, which 60 percent of respondents said they have experienced.

Unpaid hours contribute to just one problem with the city's restaurant industry. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said they had been forced falsely report taking meal breaks, which violates law requiring a 30-minute meal break for anyone who works six consecutive hours. The study found that wage theft most often targets women, Latinos, and back-of-house staff, and that at high-end restaurants, white men make up a disproportionate amount of the front-of-house staff.

Chris Duggan, director of local government affairs in San Diego for the California Restaurant Association, told KPBS his organization has zero tolerance for the illegal practices.

"The CRA provides many resources to ensure our members do not engage in these activities. Unfortunately, this study combines potential legal violations with the authors' blatant political agenda," Duggan said. "Any violations of current law are concerning. California has a number of laws and departments in place to address and enforce workplace regulations. The California Restaurant Association will continue to provide our members and the industry with the resources they need to ensure 100 percent compliance with these regulations."

The study is published at a time when many restaurant workers in Southern California are fighting for higher wages. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council approved a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour.

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