Workers at a prestigious Menlo Park horse training center and a second facility owned by the same person were denied minimum wage and overtime pay for years while the owner housed workers in converted stables without running potable water and took kickbacks on their visa fees, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.
Kevin Chambers, owner and operator of EWC & Associates, which runs Portola Valley Training Center in Menlo Park and Gilroy Gaits in Hollister, failed to pay employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, neglected to pay employees properly for overtime, didn't provide safe or healthy housing conditions and didn't keep adequate records, among other labor law violations, according to a news release describing the investigation.
In January, following the investigation, the Department of Labor brought forward a case against EWC & Associates in the Northern California District of the U.S. District Court. It was settled in a consent judgment several weeks later.
Chambers has been ordered to pay $1.27 million in back wages and damages to the employees, as well as $100,000 in civil penalties.
The Portola Valley Training Center, located at 100 Ansel Lane near Alpine Road, was once home to the state's first swimming pool for horses, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana's horses, and for a number of years, the Portola Valley Classic Equestrian Festival.
Today it is home to eight horse training businesses, as well as an on-site veterinary clinic, according to its website.
According to court documents, the investigation determined that the workers are owed $293,506 in unpaid overtime, $645,870 in back wages, and $37,800 in unreimbursed transportation and visa costs for work done as far back as April 2015. The judgment ordered these payments and others to be made within 90 days.
Chambers was also banned from applying for any temporary visas for one year. He did not respond to The Almanac's requests for comment by press time.