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Bay Area Subway franchisee fined $1 million, ordered to sell businesses after wage theft investigation


Sep 29, 2023

The actions follow a Press Democrat investigation that revealed a long trail of workplace abuses by John Meza and his wife, Jessica Meza

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ordered the owners and operators of 14 Bay Area Subway restaurants, including six in Sonoma County and three in Napa, to pay employees nearly $1 million in back wages and damages.

In a rare action, the court’s order requires the owners to sell or shut down their businesses by Nov. 27, a term the department required to resolve the case.

The actions against John Meza and his wife, Jessica Meza, follow a Press Democrat investigation that revealed a long trail of abuses by the Subway franchisees.

Federal investigators confirmed much of the reporting, finding that the Mezas directed children as young as 14 and 15 to use dangerous equipment and assigned minors to work hours not permitted by law; failed to pay employees their wages regularly, including by issuing them hundreds of bad checks; and illegally kept tips left by customers.

On Sept. 27, U.S. Department of Labor obtained a consent judgment and permanent injunction that orders the Mezas to pay 184 workers $475,000 in minimum wage, overtime and tips and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The court also ordered them to pay $150,000 in penalties.

The Mezas and their site manager, Hamza “Mike” Ayesh, are also ordered to pay $12,000 in punitive damages for threatening at least one employee who had complained.

“Thanks to some very brave young people who stood up to their employers’ exploitation and attempts to intimidate them, the Department of Labor and a federal court are holding these business owners accountable,” Ruben Rosalez, the department’s wage and hour regional administrator in San Francisco, said in a statement.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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