It’s no secret that some of America’s lowest-wage workers are the most prone to exploitation. Think about it – low wage earners are among the most afraid of losing their jobs, perhaps with good reason. Employees in low-wage industries are often immigrants, single mothers, uneducated individuals who for various reasons, are unable to enforce their employment rights. Lack of understanding, threats from an employer and concern over losing a job are enough to make it feel impossible to enforce rights to things like overtime pay and minimum wage. Sadly, many businesses use these factors to their advantage and exploit some of the hardest working individuals out there.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the New York State Labor Law (NYSLL), and New York City law, employers must, with few exceptions, pay employees at least the minimum wage. Employers must also pay the overtime rate for all hours over 40 employees work in a given workweek. Overtime wages are equal to one and a half time the regular rate of pay. In New York, employers must also pay for “spread of hours” when an employee works more than 10 hours in a single day. “Spread of hours” is an extra hour of pay at the minimum wage rate.
When employers violate these rules, employees have the right to pursue their unpaid wages or sue their employer for wage-theft. While some workers fear retaliation, others seek the advice of attorneys, like the ones at Leeds Brown Law, P.C., who can help them understand their legal rights to collect the wages they earn.
A recent lawsuit shines a light on the plight of a particular group of immigrant workers who allege that several NYC hotels are exploiting them. The case, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York is Leila Botakhanova, et al. v. Apple Commuter Inc., et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-04296. In this class action, three employees are seeking damages from 45 defendants including several hotels and Apple Commuter Inc., a company that provided workers to handle front desk, concierge and driving duties for them. The plaintiffs claim that they performed tasks such as answering phones, greeting guests, making reservations and planning other activities for guests. The hotels named as defendants contracted with Apple for the placement of the employees.
The employees who filed the lawsuit allege “that Apple Commuter employees are compelled to work at least five to seven days per week, often over 12 hours per day, for only $5 per hour (and no overtime pay). The complaint argues that this violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as New York state labor laws.”
The lawsuit asks that the court cetify three sub-classes. One for all employees who did not receive overtime pay, one for all employees who received less than minimum wage and another for those who did not receive New York’s spread of hours pay for days they worked over 10 hours in one shift. The action requests back pay and punitive damages.
The plaintiffs who filed the class action are three immigrants who allegedly came here to the United States with high hopes. Assurances, they claim, were made by Birah Shah, the individual who runs Apple Commuter. Court documents state, “After luring the women in with promises of a better future, Defendant Shah exploits them by mandating that they work unspeakable hours in consideration for legally insufficient and morally reprehensible compensation…[t]he slightest objections are met with threats, scare tactics, and intimidation, so as to allow the Defendants to continue to capitalize on these women.”
With the help of their attorneys, the plaintiffs are determined to recover the fair and legal wages owed to them and stop future exploitation by the hotels and Apple Commuter.
The women who filed the lawsuit work for Apple and claim that the hotels use Shah’s placement service for one reason: to skirt wage, hour and labor laws. However, the complaint alleges that the workers are “for all intents and purposes, employees of the hotels,” who only work at the hotels and take orders directly from hotel management. It is the plaintiffs’ position that the hotels are also responsible for the wage violations. The outcome of this action remains to be seen.
Do you work in a hotel in NYC? Are you earning less than minimum wage at your job? Does your employer owe you overtime pay? You have legal rights and the employment attorneys at Leeds Brown Law, P.C. can help you enforce them. Reach our experienced New York City unpaid wage lawyers at 1-800-585-4658 today for a free consultation.