Owners of the now closed L’Amande French Bakery, which had California locations in both Beverly Hills and Torrance, has been ordered to pay almost $15.3 million in damages for the exploitation of 11 Filipino workers.
The default judgment was granted on May 2 by U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin. The workers claim that they were trafficked. They allegedly came to the United States to work at the two bakeries owned by the defendants, Analiza and Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida.
The Filipino workers said that the bakery owners had recruited them by promising that they would earn more than double what they would have at home in the Philippines. However, that isn’t at all what happened when they finally made it here to the United States. In 2012, the workers arrived in Southern California hoping for the American dream, but what they got was a nightmare.
According to, Christopher Lapinig, a lawyer who represented the workers, the situation is not at all unusual.
Unfortunately, time and time again, we see exploitative employers … resort to fraud and other unlawful activity to escape accountability for their labor abuses. With this judgment, we hope to make clear to such employers that they can no longer act with impunity.
A lawsuit was filed in 2015 which alleges the bakery owners forced their workers to work 17 hour days. Not only did they not receive overtime pay, they were not even paid the minimum wage. The suit alleges that one worker only received $100 for an entire months worth of work.
When the workers were recruited they were told they would be working as domestic servants and under the table employees at the bakery, but in reality, they were also made to do construction work at an apartment complex in Long Beach that was owned by the Almeidas and forced to do cleaning and landscaping at the couple’s home.
For months at a time, the workers slept on the floor of the laundry room in the home and were paid just a little more than $2 an hour.
In the lawsuit, the Almeida’s are accused of labor violations, human trafficking, and retaliating against the workers by firing several of them after several they had cooperated with the state investigation.
According to attorneys for the workers, the Almeidas shut down both bakeries after the lawsuit was filed.
The LA Times reports that “the 11 Filipino workers came to the U.S. E-2 visas, which gave immigrants with specialized skills authorization to work for a foreign national who has invested a substantial amount of money in a U.S. based business.”
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the California Labor Commissioner’s office ordered the Almeida’s to pay almost $250,000 in overtime wages to workers in 2014.
Featured image via L.A. Times screen capture