BMS Cat, a Texas-based company specializing in disaster recovery, and two subcontractors have paid former cleaning workers $129,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the cleaners were paid sub-minimum wages and denied overtime while working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
The workers alleged that they mopped, swept, sanitized, and disinfected hallways, patient rooms, bathrooms, and other areas and surfaces exposed to COVID-19 patients. For their work, they were paid the minimum wage of $15, however, beginning on July 1, 2020, when the pandemic slowed, the workers had their pay cut to $12.25, below New York City’s minimum wage. The workers would work up for 49 hours per workweek and were not paid the statutorily required overtime wage rate for hours worked over 40 per workweek.
Cleaning workers have been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic as high-quality cleanliness and sanitation are essential to protect our health and safety. These essential workers are often underpaid and owed overtime. When employees are paid a fixed weekly salary or day rate, they are not receiving overtime pay at one and one half (1 ½) times their regular hourly rate of pay.
Given the increase in need of cleaning workers during this global pandemic to maintain high standards of hygiene, many cleaning workers are working over 40 hours per week and are, therefore, entitled to overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law, cleaning workers should be paid overtime of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 each week. For example, for a cleaning worker paid at the New York minimum wage of $15.00 per hour, all hours that he/she works over 40 in a week should be paid at $22.50.
If you are a cleaning worker who has a question about wage theft, or if you are an employer seeking guidance as to how to pay your employees correctly, please call the attorneys at Pechman Law Group at 212-583-9500 for a free consultation.