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Investigation finds Menlo Park horse facility owner housed workers in stables, cheated on wages

Original post made on Apr 7, 2019

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.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 5, 2019, 1:40 PM

Comments (18)

9 people like this
Posted by Whatever
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 7, 2019 at 9:46 pm

"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, "

Isn't that the norm for most who "employ" unskilled/registered labor in the area?

The "employer" just got ratted out because somebody was holding a grudge.


44 people like this
Posted by Labor
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 8, 2019 at 8:45 am

> Isn't that the norm for most who "employ" unskilled

No.

> The "employer" just got ratted out because somebody was holding a grudge.

Someone who had their earnings stolen, and asking for the law to be upheld is just a rat "holding a grudge".

Wow.

Having a bad day over there?


18 people like this
Posted by RanchGal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 8, 2019 at 2:08 pm

RanchGal is a registered user.

That is wrong on all levels. When I pay unskilled labor I pay them $15 an hour. How can anybody live with themselves paying even less than $8 an hour and no running water? So wrong so very wrong.
Human Trafficking!!


21 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 8, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Locking up the owner for 20 years is good start, for Locking up workers up in a horse stable in unlivable conditions.


11 people like this
Posted by John Ullom
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2019 at 3:03 pm

I wonder which fire department performs inspections in the neck of paradise?

Does anybody suppose that a single member of this lousy establishment will take their business elsewhere?

Did this jerk even pay a price? He has been stealing from poor people for years. All he has to do is pay it back, pay a 100 grand penalty, pay the lawyers, and not import any labor for 1 year. Is there more coming? Have not crimes been committed?


2 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2019 at 3:14 pm

The business is actually registered under the name of E(arl) Wendell Chambers, who died 4 years ago. Kevin lives in Hollister.


8 people like this
Posted by Steve_J
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Steve_J is a registered user.

He must have taken lessons from Meg Whitman!!


8 people like this
Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:33 pm

PVTC has been a problem for years. I would hope that people who have been patronizing this establishment will have enough of a conscience to go elsewhere.


5 people like this
Posted by Horsewoman
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 12, 2019 at 5:12 pm

@Janet, where would you suggest "people with a conscience" go? Everyone who knows Kevin has known him to be a problem for years. Many of us heard about this rumbling last Summer, and at least one trainer left the PVTC. However, the Woodside and Portola Valley (and Atherton) area have a finite number of places to keep horses (and getting smaller every week as more private homes with barns sell to people who opt not to keep horses), and very few indeed with facilities for trainers. The PVTC is a great facility, is has some wonderful trainers, a big equine vet hospital with the only surgical capabilities on the Peninsula, and a lot of clients and employees. It also used to host a fabulous horse show every summer. The solution is to bring in better management, which I think would be welcomed by everyone. I'd be very interested to see what the unliveable living conditions were; no running water likely meant not in the room, but certainly available in each barn (bathrooms are available in each barn) and also hoses. While I don't endorse this as proper housing, it's certainly been no secret that grooms often live at the barn at many or most horse properties; usually in converted rooms or apartments that have a bathroom separate. Some properties have an apartment above the barn, or above the garage on private properties. Kitchens, hot plates are not allowed in barns due to fire regulations, but microwaves are. A property as big as the PVTC could certainly have a dedicated bunkhouse, and I'm not sure why it doesn't. All that being said, I don't believe for a moment that anyone is surprised at Kevin's holding back or not paying of wages. We didn't know for sure until one of the guys spoke up, but it's certainly par for the course for Kevin----and not for horse people in general. Most horse property owners pay appropriately.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Horsewomen:

Your comments are just..... I can't even begin to describe how wrong you are.

" I'd be very interested to see what the unliveable living conditions were; no running water likely meant not in the room, but certainly available in each barn (bathrooms are available in each barn) "

Seriously? How many bathrooms do you have in your home? Do you have to go down the hall to go to the bathroom? Do you sleep on a cot? Effing unbelievable.

Gee. I wonder why this kind of stuff goes on. Could it be because the clients really don't give a sh*t about the people doing the "dirty work"?

Seriously? No running water in their room isn't a problem? Really? How could you be more tone deaf?


5 people like this
Posted by Horsewoman
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 16, 2019 at 5:53 pm

Actually, I DO go down the hall to the bathroom in my own home, and I also do the “dirty work” for the horses. If you had any clue, you’d realize how much horsepeople know that they need, and do appreciate, the guys. As well, I have slept on less than a cot while working for a living, so get over yourself. Not everyone in this area is as privileged as apparently you are.

What you don’t seem to understand is that this is not a new situation, nor is it unique to this area or to horses/stables in general. People who work at the track...live at the track, particularly the lower level workers who are doing “the dirty work” which is almost everyone. In part because it is usually provided free of charge, and in part because they work early in the morning to feed. You do realize that the PVRC used to be a track, right? Aside from that, your concerns ring hollow. Who do you think is picking your atrawberries, and have you seen where they live? Yes, I thought not. I’m not disagreeing that the situation for housing at the PVTC was/is less than ideal, but I was serious—I would like to see what was termed unlivable, and I’d like to know why Kevein and before him, Wendell, weren’t forced to put up bunkhouses. As well, I would question why, if this is so serious to everyone, now that it’s out in the open, the yearly inspections that every stable owner goes through, as well as fire inspections, didn’t turn up a problem in the many years the PVTC has been in operation.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Horsewoman:

I know "who picks my strawberries". Again, you are tone deaf. You'll probably never get it based on your reply.


5 people like this
Posted by Horsewoman
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 17, 2019 at 6:31 pm

Well, "Menlo Voter," I'm simply saying out loud what we have all known for at least the last 30 years. You obviously know nothing about the horse world, or the industry---and if you have some spare rooms and spare bathrooms, please feel free to offer them up. I guess you have never lived in a dorm room? You know, no running water and a bathroom down the hall? Or a walk-up apartment with the shower in the kitchen/living room/bedroom/dining room combo? Based on your assessment, both of these would be deemed unlivable. That, my ostrich friend, is why I'd like to see exactly what the situation is/was. The evaluation could be spot on, or it could be not. Either way, the dispute was not over living quarters, but over pay. The unfortunate result was retribution by Kevin in the form of immediately firing all of the guys, and refusing to employ anyone at all from now on, as well as refusing to supply service to the trainers with clients boarding there. If you have a good, workable solution, now is the time to step up with it. We've all been quietly trying to get new management for the PVTC for years. Maybe you'll be more successful.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2019 at 8:41 pm

If owning horses means keeping cheap laborers on site, then maybe there's no place for horses in suburbia.

I've met Mexicans, Guatamalans, and Hondurans who've worked in these places and they're simple, but not cruel. The exploitation is that many of these folks are illegal, underpaid, un-taxed, and given no employment rights. If we need people in the shadows to shovel our horsesh*t, then maybe there's no place for horses.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2019 at 9:47 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Horsewoman:

[Portion removed; incivility violates terms of use.] I'm a college graduate. I didn't live in dorms when I went (I lived with roommates, sharing a bathroom), but I was there with plenty who did. Your attempt at comparing them to the abused workers at these stables is a lame attempt to justify abusive treatment. That's really sad that you think it's acceptable. You're trying to excuse the mistreatment of these workers. Keep it up. You just keep reinforcing your privileged opinion.


3 people like this
Posted by Horsewoman
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 18, 2019 at 4:27 pm

@ really? I agree with you 100% regarding the exploitation, and many of us have been trying to address this problem for years without the result that has just occurred. The guy are supporting families and extended families on the money they earn, and some may or may not be legal residents. Honestly, that doesn't matter to any of us who work with horses, except that it puts them at risk, and opens the door to this kind of exploitation out of fear of being deported. I've visited friends in jail, guys who have worked in this area for YEARS, who got caught by ICE and have since been deported. Both of them swore they would come back as soon as they could, because there is absolutely nothing for them, no way to earn money, in the country from where they came. These are hardworking, good guys who perform an essential job. With show horses, this can be both a skilled job and an art---not just anyone can handle horses, much less horses that are highly are and worth quite a bit. As for there not being a place for horses in suburbia, this area was not suburbia until the Silicon Valley boom. There were more horses than people in Woodside for many years, and the Circus Club was named for the pony circus the children of local residents put on, way back in the day. Many of us have watched private properties that boarded between 6 and 12 (or more) horses get sold to owners who either tore down the barns, kept the barns but have turned them into guest houses or pool houses, or have aged in place and simply no longer want the hassle of having boarders. I'm not assigning blame or criticizing any of these decisions, but it is an unfortunate fact that there are many barns either no longer in existence, or standing empty and rotting out, in this area. It's heartbreaking. This causes a huge squeeze for both private boarders with one or two horses of their own, and trainers The main problem now is that only a few people own the biggest properties that host both trainers and a large population of horses. Most of them do right by everyone---Kevin has been a problem for a long time. However, in any situation where there are only a few options, like it is for boarding horses on the Peninsula, and where the majority of the land is owned by Stanford, there's really not much individual owner/boarders can do. And for anyone claiming that all horse owners are elite and the super rich, it would be great if you would realize that most horse owners are paying everything they can afford to keep their horses within an hour of where they live. Ask any horse owner how much they pay in board alone, much less all the other expenses that occur (not including training) and you'll realize that we do it because we love the animals and love the sport---and are willing to give up all kinds of other things that "regular people" have in order to support them. But we all have budgetary limits, and they are at the maximum right now. Suggesting that we all have such deep pockets that we can afford to just keep paying more and more is ludicrous. So...again, open to suggestions as to how to solve the situation.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 18, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Horsewoman:

Perhaps real estate values have priced out the ownership of horses in this area?


6 people like this
Posted by X boarder at pvtc
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 18, 2019 at 8:04 pm

To Menlo voter and horsewoman-
The “ running water” situation
At PVTC is nonpotable. Try drinking it. Kevin rotated workers between the facilities in Hollister and Portola Valley constantly- made it almost impossible to keep track of them. The PVTC facility has the potential to be world class, but has been neglected by Kevin for years- footing is horrible and turnouts flood every winter making them unusable. Kevin has been ripping off the trainers and boarders for decades. He and his accounting staff should be audited. I am not sure if it is Menlo or Woodside fire district, but one of them should do their due diligence in light of potential fire dangers and faulty electrical issues associated with making due in such primitive living conditions. I left after taking my horse out of training because I was fed up with the deplorable conditions and the outrageous billing. 90% of the clients don’t know enough about horses to even notice the conditions.
The vet clinic is an asset to the community. Nothing but good things to say about them.


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