Cheesecake Factory Janitors Are Striking Back Over $4.5 Million in Lost Wages

The Cheesecake Factory is under scrutiny for labor law violations.
The Cheesecake Factory is under scrutiny for labor law violations. | © Phillip Pessar / Flickr
Cheesecake Factory restaurants across California are in some hot water for violating labor laws in the state where it originated.

In 2016, Drake famously asked, “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake?” Now, janitors in Southern California are fighting with the Cheesecake Factory. In a recent California state court case, the famous restaurant chain’s own janitorial subcontractor owes workers money for lost wages—a lot of money.

"The Einstein Approximation" -- Sheldon's (Jim Parsons, right) search for the answer to a physics problem leads him to work at the Cheesecake Factory with Penny (Kaley Cuoco, left), on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Monday, Feb. 1 (9:31-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. © CBS Broadcasting Inc.

The American food and sweet treat mogul originated in Los Angeles; however, Cheesecake Factory locations in The Golden State have been found guilty of illegal practices dating back to 2014.

On June 18, 2018, the California Labor Commission ruled that the restaurant chain and its janitorial subcontractor, Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning, are required to pay 559 Southern California janitors $4.5 million in lost wages and fines. The state found that Magic Touch had violated labor laws by paying less than minimum wage, denying overtime, forcing longer shifts without pay, and failing to grant employees proper meal and rest breaks.

The Cheesecake Factory contracted Americlean Janitorial Services Corp., which subcontracted Magic Touch to service restaurants in Brea, Newport Beach, Irvine, Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach, and three locations in San Diego.

Cheesecake Factory takeout. © m01229 / Flickr

The lawsuit alleges janitors started shifts at midnight and worked until morning without breaks, which is illegal. Magic Touch employees were not allowed to go home until Cheesecake Factory kitchen managers inspected their work, which often led to additional, unpaid janitorial tasks. Workers logged up to 10 hours of overtime each week, none of it paid.

Though the investigation was confined to a three-year period, the L.A.-based janitorial industry watch group Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund (MCTF) claims this isn’t the first time the restaurant chain has allowed illegal practices.

“This marks the third time the Cheesecake Factory has stood by as the people who clean their restaurants had thousands of dollars in wages stolen from their paychecks. This time is different. Because of new laws in the state, the Cheesecake Factory will also be held accountable for the stolen wages of the people who clean their restaurants,” MCTF executive director Lilia Garcia-Brower told NBC Los Angeles, stating the company’s janitorial contractors were also accused of wage violations in 2007 and 2010.

A 2010 Justice for Janitors rally. © SEIU Local 1 / Flickr

This case is the first to fall under SB 588, a law that holds all parties accountable for any labor violations.

“Client businesses can no longer shield themselves from liability for wage theft through multiple layers of contracts,” Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su explained to NBC Los Angeles. “Our enforcement benefits not only the workers who deserve to be paid but also legitimate janitorial businesses that are underbid by wage thieves.”

Until the story unfolds, here’s Drake’s epic Cheesecake Factory fight scene in “Child’s Play”: