Governor Cuomo announced that New York State’s newly-created Anti-Retaliation Unit has taken swift and aggressive action to secure the immediate reinstatement and over $68,000 in restitution payments for two victims of wage theft. The workers were fired by their employer, Pinnacle Holdings, after the State Department of Labor sent notice of its determination against the business.
“There is zero tolerance for those who seek to exploit workers and rob them of the wages they rightfully earned,” Governor Cuomo said. “This administration will continue to do everything within its power to ensure that a fair day’s pay is paid for a fair day’s work in New York State.”
As part of an ongoing wage theft investigation, State investigators discovered two individuals, Fernando Puerta and Mario Gil, living in an illegal basement apartment in East Elmhurst in exchange for performing janitorial work on site. Neither worker had been receiving wages. The Department of Labor subsequently issued a decision against the employer substantiating the wage theft case and determining that back wages were owed. The Department of Labor imposed a total $71,225.81 in fines, damages and restitution for unpaid wages on Pinnacle Holdings. The workers received $68,225.81 in restitution and the remaining $3,000 was collected by the Department of Labor in the form of additional fines.
Upon receiving the decision against it, Pinnacle Holdings served the workers with an eviction notice. Attorneys in the Anti-Retaliation Unit were notified and within 48 hours of receiving the phone call, contacted Pinnacle Holdings and advised the company to cease the illegal retaliatory action. The company immediately agreed to reinstate the workers and place them on payroll.
Acting New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “The state of New York protects its workers. Regardless of immigration status, income bracket, gender or race, worker exploitation and retaliation against those who speak out will not be tolerated in our state. Through the Governor’s Task Force to End Worker Exploitation and the Anti-Retaliation Unit, the state Labor Department will continue working to ensure that every worker’s rights are fully protected.”
In October, 2015, the Governor announced the creation of the Anti-Retaliation Unit in order to end retaliation against workers who complain about wage theft, misclassification, or other rights protected by the New York Labor Law. The unit of attorneys and investigators seek to immediately reverse the retaliatory action by informing affected employers of consequences and providing the employer with an opportunity to reverse the retaliatory action, obtaining real-time solutions. In addition to conducting full investigations for the Department of Labor, cases will be investigated with other Task Force agencies to obtain remedies for aggrieved workers.