A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreements Ending Discriminatory And Predatory Practices At Five NYC Employment Agencies

Agreements Seek To End Scams, Exploitation Of Job Seekers And Low-Wage Workers

Schneiderman: The Law Guarantees Equal Employment Opportunities For New Yorkers

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements ending unlawful discrimination and predatory business practices directed at immigrant job seekers by five employment agencies in New York City. The agreements reached with Excellent Employment Agency, United Employment Agency, Patricia Employment Agency, Rivera Employment Agency, and Sunset Employment Services require the businesses to cease engaging in unlawful discrimination when making job referrals, referring applicants to jobs paying below minimum wage, charging excessive fees and refusing to refund advance fees.

These five agencies targeted Spanish-speaking job seekers in two neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn. Four of them are located in Jackson Heights and one is in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. An 18-month investigation by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau found that the agencies collected national origin, gender, and age information from job seekers to unlawfully steer them, in accordance with employers’ discriminatory preferences, away from jobs such as “Mexican pasta man,” “European-looking sales girl,” “delivery, looking for a guy,” “construction 2-3 guys,” and “sales 20-25 years.” In addition, the employment agencies unlawfully referred applicants to jobs paying as little as $3.75 per hour, far below the applicable minimum wage in New York State.  Finally, the employment agencies charged job seekers excessive referral fees and failed to provide refunds of advance fees as required by New York law.

“Employment discrimination against vulnerable populations is an increasing and disturbing trend, and we need to do everything we can to protect job applicants across our state,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These agreements will send a strong message: Employment discrimination and exploitation of job seekers – including among our hard-working immigrant communities – are unacceptable. We will continue to fight for a level playing field for New York workers and our law-abiding businesses.”

In addition to requiring compliance with the law, the agreements reached with these five employment agencies require the agencies to report to the Office of the Attorney General any employers that make discriminatory requests for job applicants or seek applicants for jobs paying below minimum wage. These provisions will aid the Attorney General in stopping businesses from using employment agencies to advance discriminatory and other unlawful hiring practices. The agreements also require the employment agencies to revise their policies and procedures, obtain training, and pay a total of $20,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to New York State.

There are over 450 licensed employment agencies in New York State, and more than 360 of them are located in New York City. These agencies are often small, family-run businesses, staffed by a small number of employees, which can serve an important function and have a large impact on their communities.  The five agencies with which the Attorney General has secured agreements have themselves referred hundreds of job seekers to employment each year, advertising in Spanish-language phone books and distributing Spanish-language flyers or business cards.

The agencies located in Jackson Heights are Excellent Employment Agency, located at 88-14 Roosevelt Avenue; the United Employment Agency, at 89-04 Roosevelt Avenue; the Patricia Employment Agency Corp. at 89-18 Roosevelt Avenue; and the Rivera Employment Agency at 82-07 Roosevelt Avenue.  Sunset Employment Services, Inc., operates out of 4905 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.

Julie Menin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, said, “Protecting the rights of immigrants is a top priority for the City, and we commend the New York State Attorney General's office for its continued commitment to protecting consumers from discrimination and unlawful business practices by employment agencies. Many of the bad actors in this industry prey on the most vulnerable and take advantage of their efforts to find a job and provide for their families. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General in our efforts to close down employment agencies that are taking job seekers’ last dollars and leave them with nothing.”

Valeria Treves of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) said, “For years, the Queens community has been complaining about the predatory, fraudulent and substandard practices of local employment agencies. After conducting and releasing an in-depth study on this issue and shining a spotlight on the problem, we uncovered that this kind of fraud is very widespread. New York City’s new immigrants, many of whom rely on employment agencies to connect them to the job market, are particularly at risk of exploitation by employment agencies. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking action against this kind of fraud and securing agreements that will help ensure that job seekers will be protected and the law will be enforced against unscrupulous employment agencies.” 

Council Member Julissa Ferreras (21st Council District) said, “As the representative of the district that encompasses Jackson Heights and serves as home to thousands of hardworking immigrants, I know that predatory and abusive employment agencies exploit some the most vulnerable communities among us. Low-wage workers in Jackson Heights deserve meaningful access to employment opportunities.  I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for going after fraudulent agencies that prey upon vulnerable communities and thank his office for making this issue a civil rights priority.”

State Senator Jose Peralta (13th Senate District) said, “I applaud the Attorney General for this important work. These agreements will serve to protect the most vulnerable members of the labor force, many of them immigrants, who are all too often the targets of predators seeking to profit from their struggles to make ends meet.”

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (39th Assembly District) said, "I want to thank the Attorney General for continuing to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, many of whom are in my district.  Hard working individuals should not be victimized trying to make a living for themselves and their families, and this settlement will go further to ensure fairness."

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (51st Assembly District) said, “At a time when many New Yorkers are continuing to feel the impact of the Great Recession and the job market has still not recovered, it is important that we protect job seekers and end the exploitative practices at some employment agencies that take advantage of immigrant workers.  I was proud to sponsor legislation this year that sought to crack down on labor sharks and I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking steps to end this predatory behavior."

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mayur Saxena and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lemle Amsterdam of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. Assistant Attorney General Donya Fernandez of the Labor Bureau and Legal Assistant Shamika Rosario also assisted with the investigation. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

The Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting all New Yorkers from unlawful discrimination. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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