retaliation 
Worker Stories

Anselmo Leyva -CLEAN_edited.jpg

Anselmo Leyva 

Carwash worker  
CLEAN Carwash member 

I am a car wash worker with 35 years of experience, and I have witnessed firsthand many injustices in the car wash industry.

 

I work long days in the sun, which is difficult, especially with increasing temperatures. California just experienced the worst heat wave in history; workers like me are more prone to heat-related illnesses and injuries.

 

My colleagues and I have had to advocate for better protections and draw attention to problems happening in our workplace because, often, our employers ignore our requests for changes.

 

One day, I decided to speak out against the injustices and violations at my workplace. With the help of CLEAN Carwash, the Labor Commissioner’s Office investigated my workplace. 

 

The investigation uncovered all the wage violations at my car wash. I was subject to retaliation for encouraging my co-workers to speak with the investigators; my employer reduced my hours and relocated me to a car wash farther from home. The reduction in my hours affected my ability to pay my bills. Many of my co-workers shared that they would rather be mistreated because they didn't want to lose their paychecks so they could pay their rent or send money to their families.

 

California can help increase workers’ confidence to speak out about workplace issues

By implementing a hardship fund and by strengthening protections for workers by

creating a policy where employers must show justifiable reason to fire workers like me; this would protect workers from unfair dismissal.

 

Rosalia Manuel - SCWTC

Rosalia Manuel 

Fast Food Worker Leader
FF15 and Santa Clara Wage Theft Coalition 

“I worked in the fast food industry for 23 years and I worked at this specific McDonald's in San Jose for 3 years. I am a leader with Fight for $15 and a Union and a member of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition. When I spoke up to do the right thing when my coworker was sexually harassed, I faced horrible retaliation from my employers which negatively affected me and my family. 

 

One day while I was leaving the bathroom and as my colleague came in - I realized that one of our male co-workers approached the bathroom - as if he was following her and trying to get into the women’s restroom where she was. Even though there are clearly two designated restrooms, one for men and one for women.   

 

I didn't know what was going on, so I jokingly said, oh, are you following her? He laughed and I noticed that there was another co-worker who was laughing with him. 

 

After an hour of time passed, my co-worker came back and told me that he had sexually harassed her. I said I’d help her report what happened, but it couldn't be to our supervisor because she’s related to the harasser, so I reported it to another supervisor who told me he would talk to them. 

 

In addition, the male co-worker repeatedly offered to buy her gifts. They both worked in the kitchen and he would watch her closely, ask to see her hands, and try to touch her arms. On one occasion he offered to give her money in exchange to go to a hotel with him. 

 

Instead of seeing changes after I reported the harassment, we noticed that they started cutting our work hours.  I informed the manager that I believed our hours were cut as a form of retaliation, but management ignored us. 

 

Shortly after, I was fired for not taking my half-hour break on time. I couldn't take it in time because I was still waiting for my co-worker to come in and cover the shift. I think I was actually fired out of anger at doing the right thing and reporting the harassment. They also suspended and fired my co-worker who had been harassed. 

 

In their anger and retaliation, they don't realize the effects: that they let someone in their store harass their workers and now my husband and our four children could be on the verge of being evicted at any moment and not having enough money to pay for my car. 

 

Employees should be free to speak up and report serious issues like sexual harassment. They haven't even given us any training on the issue.  It hurts me so much to know that workers have to deal with this all too often. It was humiliating to be fired after 3 years for doing the right thing. 

 

Workers are afraid to speak up because they fear that they might get fired, and in fact, that is what happened to me. These retaliation stories and experiences are too common. Too many workers are staying silent for fear of retaliatory actions by employers and bosses. Retaliation is a problem for ALL workers. Workers and our families need protection now.

Veronica Berrea - KIWA

Veronica bARRENO CUJUY 

COOK AT HONG KONG RESTAURANT 
KIWA MEMBER LEADER 

I have worked as a cook at Hong Kong Restaurant, a Korean food restaurant, for nine years. In my work, we are demanding better working conditions - respect above all, and an increase in salary. I have been robbed of overtime pay that was not paid to me, until this last year when they began to pay me. We had no right to 10-minute breaks, much less vacation or sick time. After we filed a petition demanding to improve our conditions, they began to give us 10 minutes and gave us two paid days off. 

 

My experience at work has been very difficult. When we tried to ask for more rights at work and to be treated with respect, it became difficult, because the manager intimidated the workers and the workers were afraid of losing their jobs. 

 

Many of my colleagues decided not to continue asking for benefits due to the intimidation of the bosses. They also took away the tips they used to give us. The bosses have told us that if we continue in this they will sue us. We live on  minimum wage,

 

We have no benefits, we ask for sick days. We are forced to work regardless if we are sick. I got sick with COVID but I had to continue working. But I am not afraid. I continue the same, demanding my rights because I know that injustices continue at work - for example, some colleagues are paid more and others less just because of the whim of the bosses. 


This is why we need more protections for workers, to avoid our employers from stealing our wages, and our tips. to avoid retaliation and intimidation from our employers when we demand our rights.