By T.A. Hendrickson
Workers at the El Super grocery store on York Boulevard in Highland Park are in line to share in $1.16 million in back pay and penalties assessed today by the California Labor Commissioner against the El Super grocery store chain.
The York Boulevard location was one of 38 El Super stores where the employer failed to provide or delayed supplemental paid sick leave and other benefits to a total of 240 workers affected by COVID-19, according to the release issued Oct. 26 by the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
All of the commission’s $1.16 million assessment against El Super goes to the workers, said a spokesperson for the Labor Commission. The total assessment is made up or $412,000 in pay, damages and interest plus $752,500 for nonpayment or late payment of the benefits
An investigation by the Labor Commissioner’s Office into conditions at El Super markets found that some workers were forced to work while sick or were denied time off to isolate when members of their households tested positive; others were told to apply for unemployment or disability while quarantining or in isolation, while others waited months to be paid, according to the commission’s release.
The investigation was launched in September 2020, after the Labor Commission office received complaints from workers and a referral from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents grocery store workers.
A spokesperson for El Super disputed the Labor Commissioner’s assessment in an email statement today, calling the commissioner’s claims “false” and the citations “baseless and irresponsible” and unsupported by “evidence, facts or the law.”
Today’s assessment against El Super is not the first time the grocery store chain has been in trouble for its treatment of workers during COVID-19. In July, the Labor Commissioner cited the company $447,876 for similar violations affecting 95 workers at three stores located in Victorville, Lynwood and on Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles.
Clarification: This story was updated on Oct. 17, 2021 to clarify that the full amount of the assessment, $1.16 million, goes to the workers.
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T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times. Hendrickson is committed to local news reporting and to finding a way forward for local news outlets in today's challenging media markets.