Eighteen current and former employees of a Long Beach hotel have reached a $130,000 settlement over the denial of meal and rest breaks required by California law, attorneys for the workers announced Tuesday.
The settlement with HEI Hotels and Resorts arose from claims filed with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement by employees of the Hilton Long Beach and Executive Meeting Center, which has been owned and managed by HEI since 2005.
Representatives of HEI didn't return calls Tuesday.
In hearings before the the Labor Commission, Hilton Long Beach workers described facing "direct pressure from supervisors to work through meals and to skip rest breaks to keep up with increasingly heavy workloads," according to the complaint.
"I have worked at the Hilton for 11 years, and all those years, I almost never took breaks," Jose Landino, a cook at the Long Beach Hilton, said Tuesday. "I could not take breaks because there isn't anyone to cover my job, and if I leave my station unattended, I will get in trouble with management."
The claim also stated that some employees suffered injuries due to the unremitting nature of their work at the 15-story, 393-room Hilton Long Beach, 701 W. Ocean Blvd. In total, 18 employees who worked in the hotel's kitchen, restaurant, room service, banquet services and housekeeping departments participated in the legal action.
The filing on Oct. 7, 2010, came just two months after workers at the HEI-owned Embassy Suites in Irvine filed numerous complaints against the company for the same violations.
"After about 11 years, I am thrilled we are finally seeing justice," said Landino, who won about $8,400. "The money I am receiving from this settlement will be helpful as the holidays approach, but above all I feel proud that we stood up and demanded the HEI Hilton Long Beach Hotel respect us and the law."
State law allows workers two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute break in an eight-hour shift. According to the law, for every day that a 10-minute break is missed, the worker is entitled to one hour of back pay.
The 18 current and former employees were represented by the UC Irvine School of Law-Immigrant Rights Clinic and Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.
"They showed that groups of employees with dedicated legal support can hold employers accountable for worsening conditions of work in the low-wage sector," said Sameer Ashar, director of the clinic.