Pinoy workers in NY recover $100,000 in wages

Filipino waiters and other guest workers in New York have recovered US$100,000 in illegally-withheld salaries with the assistance of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo announced on November 20 a settlement with Florida labor contractor Star One Staffing, Inc.

“This settlement is another message to unscrupulous employers who try to scam New York workers out of money they’ve earned,” said Cuomo.

According to the website of the Office of the Attorney General, Star One reportedly failed to pay proper wages to Filipino guest workers. The contractor also deducted money from the workers’ salaries for their rent, board and transportation which violated the New York Labor Law.

Cuomo said the workers arrived in the US on federal “H2B” visas. Star One transported them to New York from Florida, promising fair wages and a decent place to stay.

The workers were sent to various country clubs and banquet halls around Long Island where they worked as waiters and bus staff.

However, the contractor deducted huge amount of money from the workers every month for their rent, board and transportation. The deductions sometimes outstripped the workers’ earnings for the entire month.

“These workers were invited into our country on the promise that they’d be treated fairly and compensated fully-instead, they were taken advantage of. My office will continue its fight against greedy employers who try to undermine the protections this state guarantees its workforce,” Cuomo said.

Furthermore, Star One also failed to pay the workers for some of their shifts worked, for days worked during training, and for overtime wages. Star One employees were also placed in overcrowded houses with small rooms, inadequate sleeping space and unsanitary facilities.

The Office of the Attorney General’s website said settlement provides restitution for aggrieved workers, damages and a period of monitoring of the company by Attorney General Cuomo’s office.

It was learned that the Filipino workers sought assistance from Father Brian Jordan of the Church and Friary of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan.

“These were all workers who had done everything right and were here legally. But this company took advantage of the fact that their legal status depended upon their continued employment with Star One, squeezing money out of them to make a profit. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for stepping up on behalf of these workers, who for so long had nowhere to turn,” Father Jordan said.

Meanwhile, Cecilia Rebong, of the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York lauded Attorney General Cuomo.

“We commend Attorney General Cuomo for ensuring that unscrupulous employers cannot undermine the most basic right to receive wages for one’s work. Like other hard-working people in America, the Filipinos employed by Star One merely sought an opportunity to support themselves and their families,” Rebong said.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins, Acting Bureau Chief Seth Kupferberg under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers.