According to a press release issued by the New York Attorney General’s (AG) Office, two Long Island grocers pled guilty to wage and hour violations. AG Eric T. Schneiderman announced that S&L Vegetables, Corp. and J&B Vegetables, Inc. both doing business as Apna Bazar Cash & Carry (Apna Bazar), were convicted of one count each of Failure to Pay Wages and Willful Failure to Pay Contributions. The plea agreement requires Apna Bazar to pay over $150,000 in unemployment insurance contributions to the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL). It also mandates that Apna Bazar pay $447,000 in unpaid wages to more than 150 employees.
The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) investigated both the Floral Park and Hicksville locations of Apna Bazar. The office discovered that between 2012 and 2015, the stores cheated over 100 workers out of minimum wages and overtime pay. The NYSDOL then referred the case to the office of the Attorney General. The State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon stated that this investigation is part of the department’s continuous effort to “vigorously pursue any employer who willingly cheats workers out of what they’re rightfully owed.”
|NYC – Big Employers (of 11 or more)||$11.00||$13.00||$15.00|
|NYC – Small Employers (10 or less)||$10.50||$12.00||$13.50||$15.00|
|Long Island & Westchester||$10.00||$11.00||$12.00||$13.00||$14.00||$15.00|
|Remainder of New York State Workers||$9.70||$10.40||$11.10||$11.80||$12.50|
The NYSDOL investigation revealed that over the course of three years, Apna Bazar paid many of its employees under the legally applicable minimum wage. According to the AG’s office, employees regularly worked up to 60 hours per week. They received pay in the form of a fixed amount with no regard to the number of hours they worked. The result of this arrangement was that the hourly rate was far below the legal minimum wage.
For example, let’s say you receive a fixed rate of $50.00 per day. Your work week is Monday- Friday, and you work 40 hours over the course of 5 days. You receive a paycheck of $250.00 (5 x $50.00) for your five days of work. However, $250.00 divided by 40 hours is $6.25. Your hourly rate of pay is far below the legally mandated state and federal minimum wages.
The arrangement might work if you only work 5 hours per day. However, the NYSDOL determined that the employees of Apna Bazar regularly worked 40-60 hours per week. The fixed rate they received resulted in the receipt of far less pay than what the law required.
Laws also require employers to pay overtime to most employees. The FLSA contains the basic rules of overtime. The FLSA states that when employees work more than 40 hours per week, they must receive overtime pay for the extra hours. The rate of overtime pay is 1 ½ times the regular rate.
For example, if you regularly earn $12.00 per hour, your overtime rate of pay is $18.00 per hour ($12.00 x 1 ½). If you work 42 hours in a work week, your pay will be $12.00 x 40 = $480.00 plus $18.00 x 2 = $36.00 for a total amount of $516.00.
Some employees do not get overtime. However, the few exemptions that exist apply to executive, professional, and administrative employees who earn above a specific salary.
At Apna Bazar, as stated above, the employees regularly worked over 40 hours per week. In addition to receiving well below the minimum wage, the employer did not pay the time and a half premium for their overtime hours. They received a fixed rate regardless of how many hours, regular or overtime, they worked.
Apna Bazar has paid about 150 employees nearly $450,000 in back pay. As part of a plea deal for its willful misconduct, the stores will submit to one year of close monitoring to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws.
The two corporate defendants, in this case, do business as small Long Island grocery stores. The wages they stole from their employees in only a few years amount to nearly half a million dollars. Wage theft is unlawful whether it occurs on a large or small scale, or is committed by a large or small employer. When your employer does not pay you all the money the law requires, you have the right to pursue an unpaid wage claim.
Contacting an attorney is an excellent place to start if you are the victim of wage theft. If your employer owes you minimum wages or overtime pay, you may wish to file a lawsuit in court or with the appropriate DOL. The right wage and hour attorney can help you understand your rights and determine the best way for you to proceed with a claim.
Leeds Brown Law, P.C. is a full-service wage and hour law firm representing workers on Long Island as well as in New York City and the surrounding areas. Our attorneys have built a reputation for providing professional, aggressive service and have recovered millions in unpaid wages for hardworking employees.
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