California Labor Commissioner Cites Five Wingstop Fast Food Restaurants and Their Owner More Than $3 Million for Wage Theft Violations Affecting 551 Workers
Bakersfield—The Labor Commissioner’s Office (LCO) has cited five Kern County Wingstop restaurants and their owner, Clinton Lewis, $3,161,606 for wage theft violations affecting 551 workers. The owner created separate corporate entities for each of his restaurants, making it seem that each restaurant was a different employer, which deprived employees of a higher minimum wage, overtime pay, and missed meal break premiums when they worked at more than one Wingstop location owned by Lewis.
“This case highlights abuses that take place in low-wage industries such as franchised fast-food restaurants where separate corporate entities are created by the same employer to improperly lower labor costs,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “The law is clear that such corporate schemes undercut law-abiding employers and circumvent worker protections.”
The LCO opened its investigation in November 2020 after receiving a Report of Labor Law Violation for one of the locations. The investigation revealed that, between 2019 and 2022, five Wingstop locations were each operating as separate corporate entities, although Lewis owned and operated each of them and shared employees between the multiple locations. Treating each location as a separate employer, Lewis paid the workers the lower minimum wage for small employers with 25 or fewer employees. LCO determined that legally, Lewis’s restaurants were a single employer at the five locations, and the workers should have been paid the higher minimum wage for employers with 26 or more employees. Workers scheduled to work at more than one Wingstop in one day were denied overtime pay when they worked more than eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. Lewis avoided paying missed meal break premiums to workers when scheduling them to work at more than one location. The employees also lost out on getting paid for off-the-clock work for their time traveling from one worksite to another during the workday.
The LCO’s Bureau of Field Enforcement issued citations to Hot Wing Holdings Group, Inc., The Northwest Bakersfield Wing Company Inc., The East Bakersfield Wing Company Inc., The Bakersfield Wing Company, Inc., The Southeast Bakersfield Wing Company Inc., and Clinton Lewis dba Wingstop, located in Kern County.
The five corporate entities and Lewis, as an individual, are each jointly and severally liable for $190,741 in minimum wage violations, $4,323 for contract wages, $57,312 for overtime, $87,656 for meal premiums, $238,569 for liquidated damages, and $1,307,980 for waiting time penalties for a total of $1,886,581. The citations also include interest on those penalties totaling $77,124, all of which are payable to the 551 employees. The five corporate entities and Lewis, as an individual, are also jointly and severally liable for civil penalties totaling $1,197,900.
Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime, and other labor law violations, and to calculate payments owed and penalties due. When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid minimum wages plus interest.
The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, as well as the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.
Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: MakeItFair@dir.ca.gov