The ringleaders of a kitchen uprising in San Francisco’s famed La Taqueria restaurant that resulted in a hefty settlement for a litany of workplace wrongdoings will be taking their payouts to go.

The five former employees alleged, among other claims, that they had been forced to work 10-hour days without overtime pay and were denied sick leave. Their accusations led to an investigation of the restaurant by the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement and the state Bureau of Field Enforcement, which found that La Taqueria had violated state and city laws pertaining to overtime pay, and that it failed to provide healthcare for its employees. There were also paid sick leave violations and inaccuracies in the employees’ paychecks.

But even before the claims were settled, four of the organizers at La Taqueria were fired and another quit. The employees, all women, held a press conference today at the city offices of Young Workers United detailing the roughly $500,000 settlement La Taqueria was forced to disseminate to 30 current and former workers.

Photo by Eugeniya Kirovskaya

One former employee, who identified herself as Claudia, said conditions at La Taqueria were oppressive. An immigrant from Honduras, Claudia fought to bring her children from Central America. When one of her kids needed surgery, Claudia said she had to get two co-workers to cover her shift and lost pay.

Palyn Mitchell, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said La Taqueria — which received international acclaim after it was named the No. 1 burrito joint in the country by the website FiveThirtyEight — hadn’t done enough to notify employees of their rights. Some employees were afraid to speak up because they feared reprisals.

“A lot of these workers have said to me, ‘if it were just me, I wouldn’t care. But it’s my family, too.’ And they don’t want to jeopardize their job,” Mitchell said.

Under city law, a for-profit business with more than 20 employees has to put money towards its workers’ health care and contribute to a medical plan or the city’s health-care fund. Employees can also request paid sick leave of up to 72 hours in San Francisco.

At the press conference, Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she planned to give the five women commendations at the Board of Supervisors for their accomplishments.

“It’s not easy to learn about your rights and then take action,” she said. “When employers are skirting the laws, they make life even more difficult for the people of San Francisco.”

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