Los Angeles Clippers basketball team owner Donald Sterling made a fortune renting thousands of apartments, but some of his former managers are suing the billionaire for allegedly underpaying them.
Two managers are pursuing the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of more than 150 current and former managers, said Santa Monica attorney Michael Morrison.
The lead plaintiff is John Jung Kim, a Korean immigrant who managed one of Sterling's buildings. Another plaintiff is a woman who immigrated from Russia.
Morrison said building managers were paid for 13 hours of work, but were required to spend 40 weekday hours a week on the premises, in a manager's office or their apartments.
"Hour 14 through 40, or whatever they work in a week, have to be paid in California at least at the minimum wage, and that's not happening here," Morrison said.
Managers were paid a few hundred dollars a month and got to live in the building for free. Giving managers free rent did not relieve the building owner of the requirement to pay for their hours on the job, Morrison said, calling the underpayment "wage theft."
Attorneys or other representatives of Beverly Hills Properties did not respond Friday and Monday to requests for comment. Sterling's attorneys responded in court documents saying that the building managers had no grounds to sue because they promised to work fewer than eight hours a day.
Jeffrey Castillo, 30, is an Army veteran who managed one of Sterling's buildings in Koreatown. Castillo said he made only $500 per month, but was required to be present at the building weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. His apartment would normally rent out for about $1,000, but he got to live there for free.
He's considering signing on as a plaintiff to the lawsuit.
"The cruel part is not the amount of dollars that you're receiving; the thing that puts the burden on you is that they don't want you to work another job," Castillo said.
He found himself relying on welfare payments and food stamps to care for his family. After four years, he quit.
"The taxpayer picks up the burden because then I had to collect welfare and the food stamps and stuff to get by," Castillo said.
Correction: An earlier version of a teaser for this story misstated which team Donald Sterling owns. KPCC regrets the error.