Appeals Court Denies Car Wash Owners' Attempt to Throw Class Action Out of Court and Instead Have a Private Arbitrator Decide Case

LOS ANGELES, CA - MALDEF prevailed in its efforts to ensure access to court in an ongoing class action lawsuit filed on behalf of employees-or "Carwasheros," as they identify themselves- of three car washes operating in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The car wash companies include Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, Inc. (doing business as Millennium Car Wash), Silver Wash, Inc. (doing business as Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing), and Gold Wash (doing business as Bubble Bee Car Wash).

The car washes have denied their workers pay for time worked, meal times, and overtime, and the workers brought a class action to stop these practices. The defendant car wash companies sought to have a private arbitrator decide the case and to eliminate the class action, but the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal and backed MALDEF's contention that the class case should be heard in state court before a jury.

"The court of appeal rejected the car wash operators' attempt to foist on workers a one-sided contract that sought to kick the workers' critical claims out of court and to require the workers to prove their claims before a private arbitrator," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Court access remains crucial in protecting workers from unscrupulous employers."

MALDEF's original suit seeks a court order that would prohibit the car washes from continuing to engage in unlawful labor practices, and seeks to compensate the affected workers by providing them the wages and other benefits the car wash owners unfairly denied them. They allege that the unlawful labor policies and practices maintained by the employers resulted in thousands of hours of unpaid labor at each car wash. Employees were expected to report to work early to prepare for the day, to work "off the clock," and were only permitted to work "on the clock" when the employer felt there were enough customers to justify payment for work. Employees who did not report to work early were punished in various ways.

"These carwasheros have now twice defeated attempts by defendants to force them out of the courtroom and to break up the class," said MALDEF staff attorney, Jorge Castillo. "Moving forward with the trial court gives these workers a public forum to demonstrate the rampant wage theft and labor abuses that have become commonplace in the carwash industry."

Employee mistreatment at the car washes went beyond wage and hour violations. The car wash owners also required employees to purchase their own materials for work, and intentionally provided employees with inaccurate work records in an effort to conceal unlawful labor practices.

MALDEF is committed to achieving a just outcome for the workers at these car washes and car wash workers throughout the United States who may be subjected to an unlawful and oppressive work environment.

To view the operative complaint, click here.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund