SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The owner and operator of several Subways who allegedly issued employees $265K in bad checks and violated child labor laws has been slapped with a preliminary federal court injunction. The injunction forbids John Michael Meza from violating child labor laws, threatening and retaliating against workers and obstructing a federal investigation, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Meza owns and operates 14 Subway franchise locations around the Bay Area. The injunction comes in the midst of allegations made by investigators with the DOL Wage and Hour Division. According to investigators, Meza instructed employees as young as 14 and 15 to operate dangerous equipment, allowed children to work longer hours at times not permitted by law, issued hundreds of bad checks to employees, failed to pay wages, and kept tips from customers.
Meza also interfered with the investigation and coerced employees not to cooperate, threatening children who expressed concerns or tried to exercise their legal rights, the DOL said. Investigators determined that several workers at Meza’s restaurants suffered burns and other injuries.
“Federal regulations protect young workers, ensure employees are paid all their hard-earned wages, and allow workers to freely cooperate with a federal investigation without fear of retaliation by their employer,” said Assistant District Director Alberto Raymond with the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco. “While learning new skills in the workforce is an important part of growing up, federal law dictates that children’s jobs must be safe and that their work doesn’t interfere with their education or well-being.”
Meza was cited for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act related to:
- Payment of wages
- Child labor
- Retaliation against employees
- Obstruction of a federal investigation
“Our investigators learned this Subway franchisee directed young teenagers to operate ovens, toasters, cardboard balers and other equipment, all of which are considered dangerous jobs,” added Raymond. “The court has ordered the employer to stop jeopardizing the safety and well-being of minor-aged workers, to pay workers as the law requires and to ensure that workers can participate in our investigation without fear.”
The federal injunction bars Meza, his two Brentwood-based companies — MZS Enterprises LLC and Crave Brands LLC — his wife Jessica Leyva Meza and associate Hamza Ayesh from:
- Violating child labor laws
- Harassing or threatening labor investigators or employers
- Taking retaliatory action such as termination or reduction of hours
- Threatening to report employees to law enforcement — including immigration authorities
Meza was also ordered to stop issuing employees checks drawn from accounts with insufficient funds and not to pay his workers using non-payroll accounts. An accounting of all bounced checks from Aug. 1, 2019, to May 19, 2023, was also ordered.
The franchisee was also instructed to cease withholding $265,294 in unpaid wages from bounced checks and to reimburse employees for bad check fees incurred from their financial institutions.
The 14 Subway franchise locations operated by Meza and his companies are:
- Antioch — 2777 Lone Tree Way
- Clayton — 1026 Oak St., Suite #103
- Concord — 301 Sun Valley Mall
- Cotati — 8500 Gravestein Highway, Unit B
- Napa — 2375 California Blvd.
- Napa — 3214 Jefferson Way
- Napa — 902 Enterprise Way, Unit A
- Petaluma — 2620 Lakeville Highway, Unit #320
- Petaluma — 221 North McDowell Blvd.
- Petaluma — 961 Lakeville Highway
- San Pablo — 13501 San Pablo Ave.
- Santa Rosa — 124-B Calistoga Road
- Vallejo — 199 Lincoln Road West, C
- Windsor — 6400 Hembree Lane, Unit #100
“The preliminary injunction we obtained is one tool we will use to prevent further exploitation and intimidation of young, vulnerable workers,” explained Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The department will take expeditious legal action when workers’ safety is threatened and when their employers intimidate them or otherwise attempt to obstruct an investigation.”