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Indybay Feature

Los Angeles Valley College perpetuated wage theft against students on Julie Su's watch

by Anonymous
Wage theft is a crime. In 2013, Secretary of Labor Julie Su formed a criminal investigation agency to stamp it out in California and put the bad guys in handcuffs. That didn’t stop the Grant Director at Los Angeles Valley College, serving the Van Nuys, North Hollywood and East San Fernando Valley, from perpetuating it against low-income students.
sm_screen_shot_2023-05-16_at_8.40.26_pm.jpg
Dan Watanabe served as director for multiple grants at Los Angeles Valley College including the Entertainment Industry Training Collaborative (EITC), a Responsive Training Fund of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office; IDEAS (Institute for Development of Entertainment Arts and Studies), a Responsive Training Fund Regional Center; and "Deputy Sector Navigator" for ICT and Digital Media.

Watanabe also perpetuated wage theft against low-income students at Los Angeles Valley College for a period of at least three years ranging from 2013 – 2016.

May 2, 2023 'Erika Endrijonas faces new questions in LACCD fraud' hit the wire, and published two accreditation complaints by Valley College students.

Student 1's complaint included violation of labor laws;

"College has allowed Media Arts Department Grant Director to submit falsified resumes to the LACCD Personnel Commission, hire students without college approval, turn-in time sheets to payroll late or not at all. LAVC pay-roll office has brought their own complaints to the CTE Dean both past and present without result. This situation has been on-going for three years."

Erika Endrijonas and the Accreditation Commission of Junior and Community College responded with a contradictory reply;

"An unfortunate miscommunication caused the confusion in your recent hiring. That has been resolved at the Grant Director's level, and the college will adhere to the Personnel Commission going forward."

Facebook Messages, Emails from Grant Director Dan Watanabe, a Labor Complaint and Emails with and referring to other students, in one instance dating back to 2013 show it was also a blatant lie.

In May 2016, Student 1 filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner. Prior to filing this complaint, Student 1 emailed Dan Watanabe for two months for updated status about delinquent pay as well as on behalf of two other students that had not been paid.

In response Dan Watanabe acknowledged he he had not finished his paperwork as late as a month after the 2016 LA Hi-Tech Event that had happened in March. He also emailed Student 1 asking Student 1 to falsify the resume Watanabe would be submitting for Student 1 to the Los Angeles Community College District and Personnel Commission. Watanabe also claimed Los Angeles Valley College Payroll Office had requested this falsification – which another email shows was also not true.

Student 1 also emailed another college employee, who was a material witness to Student 1's employment situation, only to be brushed off.

This was not the first time that Los Angeles Valley College's Media Arts Department had specifically defrauded Student 1. In 2013, Student 1 had worked for the college, but according to a string of Facebook Messages with Dan Watanabe first did not receive a check. When Student 1 finally did receive a paycheck it bounced over-drafting Student 1's checking account by a few hundred dollars. This also occurred only a few days before Christmas 2013.

In his replies, Watanabe also mentioned two other workers for him submitted affidavits that they had not been paid, bringing the total too a documented three employees unpaid in 2013.

After the Accreditation Complaint was closed Dan Watanabe sent out a mass email to students workers informing them that he would have to start collecting signed time-sheets for the 2016 - 2017 school year.

Start?

California Law requires that employers maintain Time-Keeping Records.

Watanabe not being fired for this gross violation of labor law spanning several years is also unfortunately not surprising given the culture at the LACCD. Not only did Student 1 not receive a paycheck in 2016 at the time the Accreditation Complaint was closed, Student 1's paycheck would not arrive until August 2016 – for work completed in March 2016. In an email from October 2016, Kevin Jeter (legal counsel to the LACCD) rejected paying the waiting time penalty. Apparently when crafting laws and penalties, the State of California exempted itself from obeying their own laws.

Then there is the matter of culture.

In an interview on The Valley College Connection Podcast, John Kawaii – a professor in Mathematics – stated he encourages students to stay in school longer than they needed too so they could "work for free," a point even his guest pushed back on.

Unpaid internships as free labor may be a common practice – it's also highly illegal.

Court's use the "primary beneficiary" standard regarding unpaid internships, in which the intern NOT a for profit company must be the primary beneficiary. This involves a 7 pronged test of which Kawaii's comments fail several standards;

2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.

6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.

7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

Those also aren't suggestions, they are the official policy of the U.S. Department of Labor.

While students can stay in school to obtain an internship, internships are explicitly prohibited as being a “work for free” situation. The seven pronged test for internships explicitly makes it clear that unpaid internships should not replace paid labor and employment should not be dangled in front of interns as a potential incentive.

Ultimately it appears that despite multiple students being defrauded during a three year period – nobody was held accountable for this fraud. Dan Watanabe continued to serve as a Grant Director until 2018 – when renewal of the Deputy Sector Navigator Grant was denied by the State of California.

On the other hand 'L.A. City College Presidential Hopeful Fostered Retaliation Culture As LAVC President' | May 8, 2023 | documents that after financially exploiting students and defrauding them academically, students were retaliated against for protesting against the schools criminal activities.
§Valley College Connection Interview
by Anonymous
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
Los Angeles Valley College Professor John Kawaii's advice that students stay in school longer than needed to graduate so they can "work for free" and displace paid labor. Even his guest pushed back on this point.
§2013 Facebook Messages
by Anonymous
sm_1.jpg
12/1, 1:12pm December 1, 2013
Redacted

Hi Dan - hope your Thanksgiving was good. Was wondering if you knew the status of my check also what is the amount - I dont even know the rate your paying - I assume minimum wage.

12/1. 1:33pm
Dan Watanabe
$9:20/hr

12/1, 1:53pm
Redacted
Oh thank-you - that's more then I was expecting. Just trying to keep track of my money cause rent is due this week.

12/9, 9:49pm December 9, 2013
REDACTED
Dan I went to my mall service today and the check has still not shown up.
§2013 Facebook Messages
by Anonymous
sm_2.jpg
12/21 12:07pm December 21, 2013
REDACTED
Dan - I just got a message from my bank that the check you guys gave me for $183.05 was returned/bounced and that now my account is overdrawn by that amount plus a $10.00 Fee deposit return.

12/21, 3:52pm
Dan Watanabe
There is a problem here -- how could that have happened? I will contact HR on Monday, saying they are in. There is no reason for a DISTRICT CHECK to bounce.

12/21, 3:55pm
REDACTED
Yes I was surprised too - my bank statement just says DEPOSIT CHECK RETURNED on 12-17-2023

12/21, 4:05pm
REDACTED
Here's a screenshot of my page
from bank account.

I deposited the check - cashed it and then on the 17th the check was returned to my bank and I was also charged a $10.00 teller fee because the check was no good

12/21, 4:14pm
Dan Watanabe
Is it possible this could have been the check that never showed up showing up late, and that the correct reissued check will come later? I am HOPING this is what happened.

Then we could get a letter from the district.

§2013 Facebook Messages
by Anonymous
sm_3.jpg
12:21, 4:16pm December 21, 2013

I mount that but I don think so - because think the amount for the lost check was around <130.00 and also it that Is the case that means that my second paycheck was also lost because there was only one with the full amount there.

Let me get my pay stub real quick to check

IT might be that all this says is that it was issued on 12/06/2013

So that might be the case. But that now means my second paycheck that was supposed to show up that friday is now missing

Ok this probably is the missing check of the issue date Is what it says. But now my other check Is missing then because It did not show up on the Friday payroll sald it would

hold on I will send you a shot of the warrant number

12/21, 4:27pm
REDACTED

Ok Dan here's the check warrant into and date • It may be the original check that just showed up super late - which If that can be cleared up great - but that means my and paycheck they were supposed to send me is also missing.

or very very late

Warrant number: 0795396 Pay Perlod: C00000 Ending Date: 12/06/2013 Issue Date: 12/06/2013

12/21, 6:19pm
Dan Watanabe
I think it may be very very very very late because two other people submitted affidavits and then had the original check come in the next day. Must be the season and just slow mails. . . Doesn't help anything!

12/21, 6:20pm
REDACTED
Oh I see. So how do we fix this?

§
by Anonymous
4.png
12/21, 6:29pm December 21, 2013
Dan Watanabe
Hopefully your next check will come in tomorrow and all will be well. Then, we can get a letter from the district or personnel here to reverse the banking charge as it was an understandable mistake.

12/21, 7:13pm
REDACTED
Ok well hopefully.

12:28, 4:17pm December 28, 2013
REDACTED
I just picked up both checks from my mailing agent - going to try to deposit them later today - whopefully it will all go as planned - let you know if there are any problems.
§2016 Email LA Hi-Tech Pay Situation
by Anonymous
sm_1_1.jpg
From: REDACTED
To: "watanabedan-lavc [at] yahoo.com"
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 9:25 AM
Subject: LA Hi-Tech pay situation

Hi Dan,

I've spoken to a couple people who said they haven't been paid by LA Hi-Tech, and they said they've been trying to get ahold of you.

Are you getting their emails?

I haven't been paid yet either but I know you were switching my job category.

Sent from my iPhone
§2016 Email LA Hi-Tech Pay Situation
by Anonymous
2_1.png
From: REDACTED
To: Dan Watanabe (Valley College)
Sent: Thursday. April 28, 2016 8:51 AM
Subject: Re: LA Hi-Tech pay situation

Thanks Dan,
I'll pass it on to those I've talked too - people keep coming up to me and asking me.

Very odd that their meals aren't getting through.

REDACTED

Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 28, 2016, at 7:51 AM, Dan Watanabe Valley College REDACTED wrote:

I am still processing all of the PROFESSIONAL EXPERTS and you and they should be paid most likely at the end of May (sorry for the delay . . . lots of prof expert forms being filed) and no, I did not receive their emails. Pls confirm that they have this address or watanabedan-ideas [at] yahoo.com there are many who have NOT sent me their resumes yet!

Sincerely,

Dan S. Watanabe
California Community College Chancellor's Oftice
Department of Economic and Worktorce Development
Los Angeles Region
Deputy Sector Navigator
Oftice (818) 778-5569
§Resume Falsification 2016
by Anonymous
sm_1_1_1.jpg
Aviles, Yasmin E. ‹avilesye [at] lavc.edu?
Tue 5/24 2018 10:40 AM
To: REDACTED

Please be advised that l have not talked to Mr. Dan Watanabe regarding your resume
Best.
Yasmin E. Aviles
Senior Personnel assistant
Los Angeles Valley College
818.043-24144 phone
818-778-5600 fax
avilesveetlave.edu

From: Redacted
sent: Monday, Mav 7.701 34 PM
To: Aviles. Yasmin
Subject: Fwd: LA Hi-Tech pay situation/LAVC Media Arts Advisory/other

Hi Yasmin.

Did you ask Dan to have me re-write my resume to include jobs I haven't worked?

REDACTED
§Resume Falsification 2016
by Anonymous
2_1_1.png
Begin forwarded message

From: "Dan Watanabe (ICT & Digital Media LA Region)"
Date: May 22, 2016 at 5:56:16 PM PDT

To: REDACTED
Subject: Re: LA Hi-Tech pay situation/LAVC Media Arts Advisory/other Reply-To: "Dan Watanabe (ICT & Digital Media LA Region)"

REDACTED Was reminded that your prof expert form was lacking an updated resume with the following items on it... Could you please revise?

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT - LA HITECH GRANT. Mentor for students entering LA HITECH pathway.
PROGRAM ASSISTANT - ICT and DIGITAL MEDIA LA REGION. Advisor for students regarding classes and programs at LAVC
TECHNICAL ADVISOR - GREATER LOS ANGELES WRITERS SOCIETY: Help with various events at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society including tech prep for GenreLA and West Coast Writers Society.

Sincerely,

Dan S. Watanabe
California Community College Chancellor's Office Department of Economic and Workforce Development Information Communication Technologies & Digital Media Los Angeles Region
Deputy Sector Navigator
Office (818) 778-5569
Mobile (310) 339-3990
DoingWhatMatters.cccco.edu

§Labor Commission Complaint
by Anonymous
sm_image1.jpg
§Labor Commission Complaint
by Anonymous
sm_image3.jpg
§Labor Commission Compaint
by Anonymous
sm_image4.jpg
§Material Witness Response
by Anonymous
screen_shot_2023-05-17_at_10.03.22_pm.png
Re: LA Hi-Tech pay situation/LAVC Media Arts Advisory/other
REDACTED Wed 6/8/2016 11:09 AM
To: REDACTED

Thank you for your input. All legal and legal related matters are handled by the district's legal department. You can go to the District's website for contact information.

On Jun 8, 2016, at 9:47 AM, k dude wrote:

REDACTED,

You may be supeaned as a witness in my labor claim, since we were grouped up for LA Hi-Tech, and I realized your not teaching over the summer. Since you don't have a regular office will you be checking your school mailbox over the summer?

If not what address do you want me to give the California labor commissioner? I can give them your work, home or a P.O. box or other address.

You may also be asked to testify regarding the pay situation in Fall 2013, which establishes this behavior is standard operating procedure when the commissioner assesses penalties.

Also, jurisdiction of this matter (other then actually writing a check for the delinquent pay and penalties) is entirely under the California Labor Commission. No one at Valley College Media Arts or School Administrstion has any say regarding this, and should any of them attempt to to interfere it will be viewed and reported to the commissioner as retaliation. State of California does not care about the pretend world of a bunch of junior college instructors - particularly one where labor laws are viewed as suggestions.

Again all I'm asking from you for is what address you want your supeana sent too should there be a formal hearing. There may be none at all and the commissioner may simply order them to pay or schedule a conference.

If you plan to have regular access to your Valley College mailbox over the summer I can always send it there.

REDACTED
§SECOND RESUME FALSIFICATION REQUEST
by Anonymous
sm_screen_shot_2023-05-16_at_8.30.22_pm.jpg
Dan Watanabe (ICT & Digital Media LA Region)
Tue 6/7/2016 9:50 PM
To: REDACTED

REDACTED, I am still attempting to get you paid asap. Could you please send me your updated resume so we can complete this process. Again my apologies for my mistake in the initial submission process.

Sincerely,

Dan S. Watanabe
California Community College Chancellor's Office
Department of Economic and Workforce Development
Information Communication Technologies & Digital Media
Los Angeles Region
Deputy Sector Navigator
Office (818) 778-5569
Mobile (310) 339-3990
Doing WhatMatters.cccco.edu
§Student Email Thread
by Anonymous
sm_watanabe_1_.jpg
REDACTED

REDACTED

Wed 6/8/2016 12:47 PM
To: REDACTED

Interesting, so who else besides you and I have not gotten paid? People I know?

On Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 1:30 PM, REDACTED wrote:

Payroll already notified Laurie who did nothing and have for past few years and I already sent everything to the the president who said she'd get back to me and has done nothing.

So I and others have taken it to the labor commission, that's the regulatory authority. And I included it in a complaint to the labor commission.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 8, 2016, at 1:16 PM, REDACTED wrote:

Here's our protocol, get all the students you know who were not paid, get any emails you might have from Dan. We are taking it to the Dean Laurie, after that, we will speak with the VP of Academic Affairs, Karen Daar.

On Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 6:15 PM, REDACTED wrote:

I paid a lot of money to go there, lost out on a lot of money to sit in class, and I even paid for the decorations for LA Hi Tech this year out of pocket and cancelled a client.

If you file a labor complaint and ask for waiting time penalty they will owe you whatever they owed you for the day times 30
Sent from my iPhone

§Student Email Thread
by Anonymous
sm_watanabe_2_.jpg
On Jun 6, 2016, at 4:44 PM, REDACTED wrote:

Yeah, I heard that. Really fucking lame. Sick of LAVC in general screwing over the students and some of the teachers. Glad to know other people know of this. Sorry you too were caught up in this crap.

On Sun, Jun 5, 2016 at 8:49 PM, REDACTED wrote:

Hey REDACTED

I'm sorry you didn't get paid - just so you know Dan screwed over almost everyone, lied to payroll and to the students and according to payroll has done this for years.

I quit the labs worker job in 2013 because of this.

If you want to get paid I suggest you go to California Labor Commission in Van Nuys and file a one page labor theft claim with a Waiting Time Penalty.

Do not believe anything Dan says he has already asked me to lie on my resume and then tried to lie claiming Yasmin on payroll told him to say that to me. He also has of last week turned in no paperwork or time sheets for anyone.

I can forward you his emails if you'd like to see them.

REDACTED had nothing to do with any of it and was appalled.

REDACTED
§New Time Sheet Requirements
by Anonymous
sm_personnel_commission.jpg
Fwd: Timesheets
REDACTED
Sat 7/23/2016 8:31 PM
To: McGeeDM [at] email.laccd.edu

Denise -

I just received this from Dan Watanabe that looks like it was sent out to anyone on his mailing list.
I and all the program assistants who were not paid at LA Hi-Tech signed time sheets for him morning of the event. I don't know what happened to them.
It would appear he is either blaming the Valley College personnel office or the commission for him not having his paperwork in order with additional people.
REDACTED
Sent from my iPhone Begin forwarded message:

From: "Dan Watanabe (ICT & Digital Media LA Region)"
Date: July 23, 2016 at 9:23:03 PM PDT
To: Dan Watanabe
Subject: Timesheets
Reply-To: "Dan Watanabe (ICT & Digital Media LA Region)"
With the start of the new fiscal year, I now need to have signatures on all time sheets, which are now done weekly. Because of some issues with personnel, I could not get everyone into the system until last week. So, I need everyone to sign the time sheet by Monday noon. If you have any problem with that, please let me know asap. I will either be downstairs in campus center or will leave an envelope with the time sheets inside. For some of you there will be two to sign. You will note that between July 1 and July 18 there are no hours because of a gap in my assignment. We will discuss when I see you. Thanks again for your patience and looking forward to another year.

Sincerely,

Dan S. Watanabe
California Community College Chancellor's Office Department of Economic and Workforce Development Information Communication Technologies & Digital Media Los Angeles Region
Deputy Sector Navigator Office (818) 778-5569 Mobile (310) 339-3990 DoingWhatMatters.cccco.edu
§Kevin Jeter Email
by Anonymous
screen_shot_2023-05-17_at_10.03.42_pm.png
RE: Labor pay status?
Jeter, Kevin Thu 10/6/2016 12:48 PM
To: REDACTED
Cc: Rodriguez, Francisco C. (Chancellor)

Good Afternoon:

We received your claim for waiting time penalties. However, there is a problem.

Pursuant to Labor Code Section 220(b), the LACCD, and all public entities, are exempt from the payment penalty provisions in the Labor Code. Consequently, this Office must, by law, reject your claim for $4,320.00 in penalties. You will receive the formal rejection letter via U. S. Mail.

Kevin D. Jeter
Interim General Counsel

Los Angeles Community College District (213) 891-2188
-----Original Message-----
From: REDACTED Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2016 1:19 PM To: Jeter, Kevin
Subject: Labor pay status?

Mr. Jeter

I submitted the forms to you to paid waiting time penalty for the delinquent pay. Could I get an update on what's going on with that?

REDACTED
Sent from my iPhone
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