California Restaurant Used False Priest to Survey Employees

There are some unethical employers in the world, but it takes a special kind of bravado for a manager to tell their employees that they have hired a priest to hear their confessions. It would even more daring for such managers to use a priest to extract information on their employees and not understand the complete violation of faith that has on a business’ staff.

The Taqueria Garibaldi restaurants in Sacramento and Roseville CA, owned by the company Che Garibaldi Inc., settled with the Department of Labor regarding the use of false priests to essentially spy on employees. The restaurants agreed to pay $70,000 in back wages and $70,000 in damages to 35 employees, as well as $5,000 in civil penalties.

In November 2021, restaurant operator Eduardo Hernandez offered a “priest” to hear confessions from employees during work hours. The alleged priest mostly asked work-related questions. The man asked employees if they had ever stolen from their employer, been late for work, done anything to harm the employer, or if they had bad intentions toward their employer. Numerous employees went to confession with the supposed priest. The Diocese of Sacramento, the fake priest’s assumed church, denied that this individual was a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento.

Taqueria Garibaldi managers also allegedly engaged in other illegal practices. One manager was accused of falsely claiming that the Department of Labor would examine immigrations issues during any investigation. The restaurant also allegedly denied overtime pay to employees and illegally paid managers from the employee tip pool. It also supposedly terminated one worker who had complained to the Labor Department.

Is It Illegal to Use a Fake Priest to Question Employees?

Most likely. Fraud is both a crime and a civil law claim when a defendant makes a misrepresentation of a material fact that the defendant knows is false and intended to defraud the alleged victim. Someone who pretends to be a professional in order to obtain someone’s intern most thoughts is misrepresenting who they are and their relationship with a specific institution. Any employee who was terminated or was punished for these “confessions” could claim damages against the fake pastor for this act.

Additionally, many professions forbid people from practicing that profession without a license. In California, it is illegal to practice law without a license. The rules for pastors are not nearly as strict, but pastors must still register with the state to perform certain services such as officiating a wedding. Anyone pretending to be a pastor carrying out a duty of a pastor that requires a certificate would also be violating such certification laws.

What If I Confessed to a Fake Pastor? Confessions are unique to the clergy, such that many states recognize a “clergy privilege” that exempts a pastor from testifying against a defendant for making a confession to them. The clergy privilege only applies if the listener is actually a pastor or equivalent in a religion. A fake pastor would not qualify for that privilege.

However, many jurisdictions have held that if a parishioner reasonably believed they were confessing to an actual member of the clergy, regardless of whether that person actually was, then the privilege may still hold and testimony from that person would be inadmissible at court. If a parishioner believes that the pastor is a fake though and confesses anyway, the privilege may not be applicable as the parishioner knew their confession wasn’t valid in the first place.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

If your employer has violated your legal rights as a worker or some other employment law, you should hire an employment lawyer for further assistance. A skilled employment law attorney can help protect your interests and defend your rights under the law. Your attorney can also assist you in filing a lawsuit against an employer and/or colleague and in recovering damages for any losses that you suffered.

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