Driver wins $480,000 for wages unpaid by tech entrepreneur

A former personal driver and bodyguard who worked nearly around the clock for most of a year without pay won a $480,727.81 award from the California Labor Commissioner for unpaid wages, damages, interest, and penalties.

Khabib Lutfiyev started working for Gurbaksh Chahal — a tech entrepreneur who founded three startups — as his driver in 2012. The Labor Commissioner found that when Lutfiyev wasn’t driving, he served as Chahal’s bodyguard, ran errands for him, or waited on call for Chahal wherever he was. The Labor Commissioner also found that Chahal required Lutfiyev to log into an app on his smartphone that tracked his location and transmitted orders.

Even if Chahal had paid Lutfiyev the $7,000 a month originally promised, Lutfiyev would have earned less than minimum wage, given all the hours he worked. The only compensation Lutfiyev received was rent on a house for his family.

“It is so vindicating when a worker like Mr. Lutfiyev uses the legal system to stand up for his rights and break the cycle of worker exploitation,” said Katherine Fiester, a staff attorney with Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, who represented Lutfiyev. “It’s all too common for workers not to be paid, even here in San Francisco, where we have some of the greatest workplace protections.”

The Labor Commissioner found that Lutfiyev worked for Chahal for 287 days and calculated that the $7,000 amounted to an hourly base rate of $40.38 for a standard schedule. At that rate, the Labor Commissioner awarded Lutfiyev wages of $270,816.28, including overtime and double time as required by law.

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