California’s labor commissioner is suing a Hidden Hills construction company to enforce a 2019 order that the firm and its CEO pay back wages to a fired carpenter and thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly retaliating when he asked for the money.
The commissioner brought the Los Angeles Superior Court suit Thursday on behalf of carpenter Carlos Pineda against Douglas Martin Construction LLC and CEO Douglas Martin Fierro. The suit asks that the carpenter be restored to his previous position, paid more than $6,700 in back wages and that the defendants be ordered to pay $30,000 to $40,000 in civil penalties.
A representative for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.
Pineda, hired in August 2016 and supervised by Fierro, performed work that included doing the framing for a home addition in Lawndale, according to the suit.
When Pineda asked Fierro a month later for unpaid wages for a week of work performed, the CEO fired him, the suit alleges.
When Pineda sent a text message to Fierro threatening to file a wage claim with the state, Fierro replied by saying he would not help his former employee because he was undocumented, then demanded the worker provide him with his immigration papers, the suit states.
Under the state Labor Code, a worker’s immigration status is irrelevant in the enforcement of state wage and hour laws.
Fierro’s demand for the carpenter’s immigration papers was a “threat to report (the workman’s) suspected citizenship or immigration status to … a state agency, and constitutes an adverse action that establishes a violation of (the carpenter’s) rights,” the suit alleges.
By allegedly saying he would report Pineda’s immigration status, the firm and Fierro “intended to threaten (the worker) and knowingly and intentionally did so to retaliate and deter (the former employee) in the exercise of his rights,” the suit states.
The carpenter subsequently filed a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, seeking an order that the company pay the wages owed him, the suit states.
In July 2019, the DLSE issued an order to the company and Fierro to pay Pineda $6,740 in unpaid wages, plus interest and the civil penalties, but the defendants have not complied despite being notified of the order in November 2019, the suit states.