Worker claims wage, trafficking violations in janitorial ‘franchise’ scheme

A janitor cleaning up the sidewalk

Luis Castillo, who worked as a janitor for CleanNet under a purported “franchise agreement,” filed a lawsuit in San Francisco today on behalf of everyone in his position across California. The complaint alleges that workers like him are not truly “franchise” owners at all but, rather, employees of CleanNet — and entitled to basic protections under California wage and hour laws.

“I wanted to be my own boss, have my own business, but it never happened…. I lost my time, my money, my business, and my dream,” says Luis Castillo. “I am bringing this on behalf of those who cannot speak up because they fear losing everything.”

“As outlined in the complaint, Castillo and others like him believed they were buying businesses, but instead found that they were paying CleanNet thousands of dollars to work, often earning less than minimum wage, receiving none of the protections California law provides for employees, and stuck in a cycle of debt to CleanNet,” says Monique Olivier, a lawyer with Duckworth Peters Lebowitz Olivier LLP.

Castillo’s complaint alleges that CleanNet intentionally misclassified him and its other janitorial workers as independent contractors. The complaint further alleges CleanNet failed to pay its janitorial workers the minimum wage or overtime or cover their business expenses, while it deducted significant amounts for royalty, management, and “franchise” fees in violation of state law.

On behalf of a subclass of potential plaintiffs who also signed promissory notes owing CleanNet for their so-called “franchise” purchase, the complaint also alleges that CleanNet preys on vulnerable communities by targeting advertisements to Spanish-speaking immigrants, failing to disclose or misrepresenting key information, and guaranteeing income that workers don’t actually get.

Carole Vigne, an attorney with Legal Aid at Work, also representing Mr. Castillo, says the alleged “ ‘franchise’ scheme is as dirty it gets.”

CleanNet workers serve a variety of commercial clients statewide, including offices, schools, health care facilities, banks, airports, and industrial sites.

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