Standing Up for the Economic Rights of Hardworking New Yorkers
Fighting for Unpaid Wages
For almost two years, ELU client MP worked as a housekeeper and caregiver for a company providing those services to clients and for the individual owners of the company. MP generally worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, preparing breakfast and lunch for her employers and their family, as well as any guests or employees staying at the home (typically 10 people or more), before she would leave to perform her off-site housekeeping and caregiving work assignments for the company’s clients. Once she completed those assignments, MP would return to her employers’ home, where she prepared dinner and performed housekeeping and laundry duties in the evening. Despite working such long daily hours, she received an average of only 3 or 4 days off per month.
MP was never paid for all the hours she worked, nor paid an overtime rate for the hours she worked beyond 40 in each workweek. By the time MP left her job, she was owed an estimated $70,000 in unpaid wages.
LAS and pro bono counsel, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, filed a complaint on MP’s behalf, asserting unpaid wage claims under federal, NY State, and Connecticut State law. After extensive settlement discussions and a court-ordered mediation session, Defendants agreed to settle MP’s case for $72,000.
The employment laws that require employers to pay employees a minimum wage and an overtime rate and to provide a workplace free of discrimination apply to all workers – regardless of their immigration status.
$1.2 Million Settlement for Delivery Workers
The ELU, along with pro bono counsel Shearman & Sterling LLP, represented more than 60 current and former pizza delivery workers in federal district court against DPNY, which owned four Domino’s Pizza stores in Manhattan, and the corporate franchisor, Domino’s. We first met with the plaintiffs through an organization we work closely with, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS), a workers’ organization in NYC. The claim involved systemic wage theft violations – unpaid minimum wage and overtime, violations of the tip credit rules, and retaliation against workers who complained about these practices.
Based on the plaintiffs’ allegations of corporate Domino’s involvement in training store owners, collecting and maintaining payroll data, and establishing policies and procedures, the court allowed the plaintiffs to include corporate Domino’s as a defendant – which is not common, but critical in this case as the defendant franchisee declared bankruptcy.
The ELU and Shearman & Sterling also represented the class in bankruptcy court. A settlement in the case was approved by the bankruptcy court and included $1.282 million to be paid by defendants, with almost $1.2 million of that amount going to the workers. Under the settlement, the franchise also agreed to pay the full minimum wage to its delivery workers instead of the reduced “tipped” wage.
By the Numbers
The efforts of our Employment Law Unit ensure hardworking New Yorkers can earn a living wage and participate in the economy on equal footing.
Low-wage workers assisted last year.
In wages recovered last year.
In unemployment insurance benefits preserved last year.
Changing the Law to Protect Workers
The ELU engages in extensive legislative advocacy at the city and state level on behalf of our clients and has been instrumental in advocating for the New York State SWEAT bill.
SWEAT stands for Securing Wages Earned Against Theft and will make it easier for workers to collect money that is owed to them.
If signed into law, the SWEAT bill will:
- Expand New York’s existing mechanic’s lien law to include all workers, joining other states allowing workers to put a temporary lien on the property of an employer who fails to pay wages.
- Amend New York’s existing attachment provisions to make it easier for workers to attach an employer’s assets at the start of litigation before the property can be sold or transferred; and
- Improve the procedures for holding the largest shareholders of privately held corporations and limited liability companies personally liable for wage theft.
A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.
Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.