Attorney General Cuomo Announces Million-dollar Settlement With Two Nyc Supermarkets To Provide Restitution For Workers Cheated Out Of Wages

NEW YORK, NY (July 1, 2009) — Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a million-dollar settlement with the owners and former owners of two Brooklyn-based supermarkets for underpayment of their workers and other violations of New York State labor laws. The supermarkets are Associated Supermarket, located at 229 Knickerbocker Avenue, and Pioneer Supermarket, located at 1115 Pennsylvania Avenue (formerly a C-Town supermarket) both in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.  The supermarket owners will pay restitution to over 50 of their employees totaling $1.125 million.

In a separate criminal action brought by Attorney General Cuomo, two owners of Associated Supermarket, Bienvenido Nunez and Martin Duran, have pled guilty to Failure to Pay Wages and Failure to Maintain Payroll Records, both misdemeanors under state law. Today’s announcements are part of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing drive to ensure workers across New York State are protected and compensated as they deserve.

“Today’s settlement delivers welcome relief to the New York City workers who spent years being cheated out of money they had rightfully earned,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The hard-working individuals of this state are the backbone and the lifeblood of our economy, and my office will continue to prosecute employers who ignore the law and steal from their workers.” 

Attorney General Cuomo’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Associated supermarket last October, after their investigation found that employees at the store were not paid proper wages. A further investigation into the Pioneer/C-Town supermarket revealed the same kind of illegal activity. At both Associated and Pioneer, baggers had been paid no wages at all and had to rely solely on tips for income.  In addition, delivery workers at the supermarkets often worked 70-hour weeks but were not paid minimum wage nor were they compensated for overtime.  Many other supermarket employees also had worked in excess of 40 hours per week, but were not paid overtime wages. 

Under the terms of the settlement today, the owners and former owners of the supermarkets will pay restitution to over 50 employees for unpaid wages and owed overtime, as well as penalties to the State of New York. The current owners of Associated and Pioneer have also agreed to comprehensive monitoring by the Attorney General’s Office, including submitting payroll and time records to the Attorney General’s Office on the first of each month for five years to ensure compliance.

Cuomo also announced that Mr. Nunez and Mr. Duran have both pled guilty to Failure to Pay Wages and Failure to Maintain Payroll Records, stemming from a criminal complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office last October.   The two men were arrested on October 8 of last year, not only for failing to provide adequate compensation for their workers, but also for failing to keep proper payroll records in effort to cover up their wrongdoings.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)/UFCW, said, “We applaud the Attorney General for standing up for these workers and bringing the employers to justice.  Other employers should take note:  if you violate the law, the sanctions will be severe.”

Andrew Friedman, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: “This settlement serves to send a strong message to abusive employers that they violate the law at their own peril.  The days of impunity for inhumane exploitation by employers have passed.  Workers should not fear asserting their rights because Attorney General Cuomo proves today that he will stand up to vindicate those rights and demand accountability for lawless employers.”

These cases have been handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mina Kim and Meredith McGowan, under the supervision of Deputy Labor Bureau Chief Patricia Kakalec and Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers.

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