Restaurant fined after hiring fake priest to encourage staff to confess their workplace sins

Credit: PA / CNN

A restaurant hired a fake priest to encourage workers to confess their workplace sins.

Investigators labelled the Californian businesses' ploy one of “the most shameless” acts of corruption an employer has ever taken against its staff.

The restaurant bosses were told to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees, by the Eastern District of California court.

One member of staff said owner Che Garibaldi, who runs two branches of Mexican restaurant Taqueria Garibaldi, hired a fake priest to hear confessions during work hours to “get the sins out," the court heard.

Employees were asked if they had been late for work, stolen money from the restaurant or had “bad intentions” toward their bosses, they said.

“Under oath, an employee explained how the restaurant offered a supposed priest to hear their workplace ‘sins’ while other employees reported that a manager falsely claimed that immigration issues would be raised by the department’s investigation,” said Regional Solicitor of Labour Marc Pilotin.

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento confirmed they found “no evidence of any connection” between their church and the fake priest.

“While we don’t know who the person in question was, we are completely confident he was not a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento,” a diocese spokesman told the Catholic News Agency last week.

The restaurant will also have to pay $5,000 in civil penalties.

Taqueria Garibaldi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Investigators also found the restaurant denied employees overtime pay, they used tips to pay managers bonuses and some staff faced “adverse immigration consequences” for cooperating with the investigation.

“This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages,” Mr Pilotin said.

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