A federal court has ordered the owners of 14 Subway locations in northern California to pay nearly $1 million in back pay and damages to employees. Moreover, they have been instructed to either sell or shut down their businesses, with any profits from the sale going to the Department of Labor. The investigation revealed that the franchise owners, John and Jessica Meza, instructed minors as young as 14 to operate dangerous machinery, violated labor laws pertaining to minors’ working hours, failed to pay their employees regularly, and unjustly retained customer tips. The Mezas’ associate, Hamza Ayesh, was also implicated for attempting to coerce employees and making threats.
Despite admitting to issuing bad checks and violating labor standards, the Mezas denied the allegations of threatening or coercing their employees. Their attorney, Arkady Itkin, claimed that the court settlement agreement may create the impression that the couple can easily pay the ordered sum, but emphasized their limited financial means. Itkin also mentioned that Ayesh did not confess to threatening an employee but agreed to resolve the situation to bring it to a close. However, considering the Mezas’ financial situation, it remains uncertain whether they will be able to fulfill the court’s requirements.
In conclusion, a federal court ruling has compelled the owners of 14 Subway franchises near San Francisco to pay their employees nearly $1 million in damages and back pay while also mandating the sale or closure of their businesses. The court findings revealed a series of labor law violations, including the endangerment of underage workers, irregular payment of wages, the issuance of bad checks, and the unlawful retention of customer tips. Furthermore, the Mezas and their associate, Ayesh, faced allegations of employee coercion and threats during the investigation. Although the couple admitted to some wrongdoing, their lawyer emphasized their limited financial means and expressed doubt about their ability to meet the court-ordered obligations.