Attorney General Cuomo Announces Recovery Of Over $100,000 In Illegally Withheld Wages For Hospitality Workers On Long Island

NEW YORK, NY (November 20, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced a settlement today with Florida labor contractor Star One Staffing, Inc. for failing to pay proper wages to guest workers from the Philippines and for deducting high sums from their paychecks for room, board and transport in violation of New York Labor Law.

The guest workers, all here on federal “H2B” visas, were transported to New York from Florida by Star One on the promise of fair wages and a decent place to stay. They were sent to various country clubs and banquet halls around Long Island where they worked as waiters and bus staff. But rather than receiving their full pay each week, as mandated by law, Star One deducted hundreds of dollars every month for room, board and transportation. At times these deductions, which are prohibited by New York Labor Law, outstripped the workers’ earnings for the entire month.

“This settlement is another message to unscrupulous employers who try to scam New York workers out of money they’ve earned,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “These workers were invited into our country on the promise that they’d be treated fairly and compensated fully-instead, they were taken advantage of. My office will continue its fight against greedy employers who try to undermine the protections this state guarantees its workforce.”

In addition to the illegal deductions, Star One failed to pay the workers for some of their shifts worked, for days worked during training, and for overtime wages. Star One employees were also warehoused in overcrowded houses with small rooms, inadequate sleeping space and unsanitary facilities

Today’s settlement provides restitution for aggrieved workers, damages and a period of monitoring of the company by Attorney General Cuomo’s office.

The plight of these Filipino workers was first brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office when the workers sought assistance from Father Brian Jordan of the Church and Friary of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan.

Father Jordan said: “These were all workers who had done everything right and were here legally. But this company took advantage of the fact that their legal status depended upon their continued employment with Star One, squeezing money out of them to make a profit. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for stepping up on behalf of these workers, who for so long had nowhere to turn.”

Cecilia Rebong, of the Consulate General of the Philippines, said: “We commend Attorney General Cuomo for ensuring that unscrupulous employers cannot undermine the most basic right to receive wages for one’s work. Like other hard-working people in America, the Filipinos employed by Star One merely sought an opportunity to support themselves and their families.”

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins, Acting Bureau Chief Seth Kupferberg under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers.