LOS ANGELES >> Eleven Filipino workers sued a bakery in Southern California alleging they were forced to do laundry and yard work for the owners, paid meager wages at the business and threatened with massive debt for their trip to the U.S. when they complained.
The current and former workers filed a labor trafficking lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday against L’Amande French Bakery, demanding more than $1 million in back and overtime pay and damages.
The workers were brought to the U.S. on visas for the employees of foreign investors between 2009 and 2014. They said they had to clean and paint an apartment complex and do laundry and yard work for bakery owners Analiza and Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida. Then, once the bakery opened, they said they were forced to work at least 13 hours a day for several months for a fraction of the pay they were promised.
When some of the workers complained, they were told they owed the owners $11,000 for the cost of their trip.
California labor investigators began looking into conditions at the bakery in 2013, but workers were threatened with lawsuits in the Philippines if they spoke out, according to a copy of the complaint. Some of the workers who did were later fired, the complaint said.
A message left for the owners at the bakery’s Torrance location was not immediately returned.