Ex-worker again sues de­vel­oper

Bel-Air mega-man­sion builder acted to skirt a judg­ment over wages, ex-se­cu­rity guard says.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By James Ru­fus Koren james.koren@la­times.com Twit­ter: @jrko­ren

For 5½ years, Juan Car­los Gon­za­lez worked as a se­cu­rity guard and driver for Mo­hamed Ha­did, the wealthy celebrity de­vel­oper who re­cently pleaded no con­test to break­ing a host of city rules while try­ing to build a mega­man­sion in Bel-Air.

Gon­za­lez said he worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week and was not paid for over­time work. He sued Ha­did in 2014 for un­paid wages and, last sum­mer, a judge agreed with him, or­der­ing the de­vel­oper to pay $576,000 in back pay and le­gal costs.

A year later, Ha­did still hasn’t paid Gon­za­lez and has tried to hide as­sets to avoid pay­ing, ac­cord­ing to a new law­suit filed last week.

In the suit, filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Los An­ge­les, Gon­za­lez ac­cused Ha­did and his as­sis­tant of mak­ing nu­mer­ous wire trans­fers — out of the com­pany that used to pay Gon­za­lez and into out-of-state en­ti­ties — to keep from pay­ing last year’s judg­ment.

“Gon­za­lez has col­lected noth­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the suit, which also al­leges Ha­did made false tax fil­ings and did not pay or with­hold pay­roll taxes for his em­ploy­ees.

At­tor­neys for Ha­did did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

The new al­le­ga­tions come just weeks af­ter Ha­did was or­dered to pay fines and per­form com­mu­nity ser­vice af­ter plead­ing no con­test to mis­de­meanor charges re­lated to his con­struc­tion of a 30,000-square-foot man­sion on Bel-Air’s Strada Vec­chia Road.

The home is big­ger and taller than the city al­lowed and in­cluded nu­mer­ous fea­tures — in­clud­ing an IMAX theater — that were never ap­proved.

Last month’s sen­tenc­ing was just the lat­est in what’s been a years-long bat­tle be­tween Ha­did, the city and other Bel-Air res­i­dents over the home, where con­struc­tion work con­tin­ued long af­ter the city re­voked per­mits.

Through­out, Ha­did, who has ap­peared on re­al­ity TV shows and is the fa­ther of mod­els Bella and Gigi Ha­did, has been crit­i­cized by his neigh­bors as a scofflaw who ei­ther skirts or ig­nores the rules.

Gon­za­lez started out work­ing for Ha­did’s con­struc­tion busi­ness as a se­cu­rity guard at sev­eral job sites. In 2008, he was hired as a guard at Ha­did’s home, a 48,000-square-foot spread in Bel-Air.

He also served as a chauf­feur for Ha­did’s fam­ily mem­bers and guests — de­spite the fact that, ac­cord­ing to a judge’s rul­ing last year, Ha­did and his book­keeper never checked whether Gon­za­lez had a driver’s li­cense. He didn’t.

When Gon­za­lez was pulled over while driv­ing one of Ha­did’s cars, po­lice of­fi­cers found he had no li­cense. He then quit or was fired. The judge said it wasn’t clear.

What was clear, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Michael John­son found, was that the em­ploy­ment agree­ment be­tween Gon­za­lez and Ha­did was not up to snuff.

Gon­za­lez was told he would be paid a weekly salary of $900 — later raised to $980 — to work 12 hours a day, ev­ery day. That’s 84 hours a week, mean­ing he should have been paid ad­di­tional wages for 44 hours a week.

Ha­did’s team ar­gued the weekly salary cov­ered reg­u­lar and over­time pay, and that Gon­za­lez, who is from Mex­ico, should not be able to sue for back pay be­cause, ac­cord­ing to John­son’s rul­ing, he “failed to dis­close that he is an un­doc­u­mented worker who is not el­i­gi­ble to work in the United States” — and did not dis­close that he had no driver’s li­cense.

John­son, though, ruled that Gon­za­lez was el­i­gi­ble for over­time pay and or­dered Ha­did to pay $263,340 in back wages, plus a penalty of $10,290. He also or­dered Ha­did to pay more than $300,000 in le­gal fees and court costs, bring­ing the to­tal judg­ment to $576,267.

Pas­cal Le Se­gre­tain Getty Images

MO­HAMED Ha­did, with daugh­ter Bella, hasn’t paid $576,000 in back pay and le­gal costs de­spite an or­der.

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