Attorney General Cuomo Announces Recovery Of Nearly $200,000 In Unpaid Wages For Employees Of Popular New York Money Transfer Company

NEW YORK, NY (August 7, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a settlement of $190,000 with the company Envios De Valores La Nacional Corp. (“La Nacional”), a consumer-to-consumer money transfer company based in New York City, and its principal Jose Hernandez. The settlement recovers both monies illegally deducted from employees’ wages and overtime not paid by the company. More than 350 employees and former employees who worked in one of La Nacional’s approximately forty locations in New York State will recover funds under the agreement.

"Today's case is a message to employers across the City: if you cheat your workers, you'll pay the price," said Attorney General Cuomo. "My Office will continue to protect the hardworking men and women of this state by going after companies that think they can line their own pockets by shortchanging their employees.”

La Nacional is licensed as a money transfer company in seventeen U.S. states and sends money to over 10,000 locations in fifty countries. In 2005, the amount of money transferred exceeded $400 million. Approximately 60 percent of its transmissions are to the Dominican Republic. The company also provides other services such as selling money orders, phone cards, and airline tickets.

Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation was sparked by several complaints from La Nacional workers. The Attorney General’s investigation showed that La Nacional made illegal deductions from its cashiers’ wages - or forced cashiers to pay out-of-pocket - when there was an alleged shortfall in the amount of a bank deposit prepared by a cashier, when a bank receiving a deposit allegedly detected a counterfeit bill, or when a La Nacional branch received a citation because the sidewalk in front of the store was dirty or snowy. La Nacional also made illegal deductions for interest on loans made to employees. At times, the deductions would bring cashiers’ wages to below minimum wage.

In addition, some cashiers worked double-shifts, amounting to over forty hours a week, without being paid the required time and a half for overtime. In these instances, the company had cashiers sign forms purporting to “waive” their right to overtime pay, something that is not possible under New York State law.

New York Labor Law provides that employers may make deductions from wages only for specific purposes, such as health insurance premiums, union dues, pensions, taxes, and the like. Such deductions must be authorized in writing by an employee unless the deduction is required by law.

Under the settlement announced today, individual cashiers will receive as much as $7800. In addition, the Attorney General’s office will continue to monitor La Nacional’s employment practices for a three-year period.

Rosita M. Romero, Executive Director of Dominican Women's Development Center, said: “Particularly in this economy, workers need to receive the full wages they are owed to support their families. We will not tolerate businesses that try to swindle members of our community to increase their profit. Workers should not hesitate to assert their rights, knowing that Attorney General Cuomo will pursue justice on their behalf.”

Today’s settlement is the latest in a string of actions taken by Attorney General Cuomo and his Office to protect New York’s workforce and enforce state labor laws. Earlier this month he announced a lawsuit against Lemongrass Grill, a popular New York City Thai restaurant, to recover nearly $1 million in unpaid wages. Last month he also announced a million-dollar settlement with Associated Supermarket and Pioneer Supermarket, both of Brooklyn, for labor law violations. Under the terms of the settlement, the supermarket owners will pay restitution to over 50 of their employees totaling $1.125 million. In March, his Office arrested the owners of two Bronx businesses - Arthur Ave. Bakery and Getty Gas Station - for failure to pay wages, failure to file taxes and filing false documents with the State.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Donya Fernandez, under the supervision of Deputy Labor Bureau Chief Patricia Kakalec and Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers.