Tacos El Gordo owes more than $45K in unpaid worker safety fines

An employee speaks to customers at a Tacos El Gordo location. The popular chain owes the state more than $45,000 in unpaid safety citations.

SAN DIEGO — The popular Tacos El Gordo chain in San Diego owes more than $45,000 in unpaid fines for not providing safe working conditions for their employees, according to state officials.

At two of the chain’s locations, management failed to inform officials when their workers suffered serious injuries on the job and failed to provide proper health and safety training, according to the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The taco chain was fined for 10 safety violations found at its now-closed 3rd Avenue location in Chula Vista last May, and earned another three penalties at its Palm Avenue location in July.

According to the Department of Industrial Relations, store management cooperated with investigators and took steps to resolve the hazards, but the company never paid its fines. Now that more than 90 days have passed and a court judgement was filed, the fines will incur interest and court fees on top of that total, the DIR’s Frank Polizzi explained.

The citations in Chula Vista stemmed from an investigation into a worker’s serious injuries when they fell from a metal shelf at the store. The store’s violations included failing to properly report that injury, failing to provide proper safety training and first aid kits, and failing to inform employees about the hazards of cleaning products and other workplace chemicals, according to a copy of the citation obtained by FOX 5.

The 10 violations carried a price tag of $40,150. The store did not appeal the citations but still has not paid the fine, according to the DIR.

The chain was cited for three more violations at its Palm Avenue location two months later. Those violations related to a worker’s serious head and hip injuries after falling in a restaurant hallway, Polizzi told FOX 5. Again, OSHA fined the restaurant for not properly reporting the injuries and for failing to train workers on safety issues.

Officials said the three citations carried a price tag of $5,860. The store did not appeal the citations but never paid the fine, according to the DIR.

FOX 5 has reached out to Tacos El Gordo media representatives for comment on the citations.

The chain also made headlines last year when it closed one of its locations “for lack of employees.”

Ricardo Cervantes said the restaurant was in need of skilled “taqueros” —  the cooks that make the tacos.

“We work with very sharp knives in a very quick pace and it’s very different from a taco shop,” Cervantes explained. “The [people] that have been applying don’t have the experience. The ones that come they say, ‘You know, I’m not up for this.'”

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