Attorney General Cuomo Recovers $1.4 Million In Unpaid Wages For Retail Workers

NEW YORK, NY (February 11, 2008) – New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the settlement of a lawsuit that recovers $1.4 million in unpaid wages and overtime from a popular retail clothing chain.  The settlement with the Yellow Rat Bastard clothing store and affiliated clothing stores will provide full restitution and damages for over 1,000 employees and former employees.  The companies, all controlled by Henry Ishay, operate in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. 

Ishay’s employees were often paid as little as $5.25 per hour and received no overtime pay, in violation of labor laws.  The Attorney General also charged that the company retaliated against employees suspected of cooperating with the office’s investigation by reducing work hours and illegally firing employees, among other actions.  Ishay’s chain of stores includes Yellow Rat Bastard, Boys and Chicks, Dirty Jane/Sloppy Joe, Rubber Sole Shoes, Antique Orange, Tempo, and F.A.T. Jeans & Shoes. 

“Any retail employers taking advantage of hard-working New Yorkers are on notice: refusing to pay wages and paying below the minimum wage will not be tolerated in New York,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Denying dignity, respect, and fairness in the workplace is both unethical and unlawful.  The person responsible for these violations was caught and is now paying the price.”

The settlement achieved by Attorney General Cuomo fully reimburses employees for all unpaid wages and overtime.  Under the settlement, the Attorney General’s office will continue to monitor the employment practices of Ishay’s companies.  The settlement bars the companies from retaliating against employees perceived to have cooperated with the investigation or who collect wages under the settlement.  The settlement resolves two lawsuits and an investigation, all brought by the Attorney General’s office, into extensive violations of New York State and federal labor law at all of Ishay’s stores.

The Attorney General was assisted by organizers from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and the Retail Action Project (RAP) in the investigation and litigation.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “Our message to Yellow Rat Bastard stores and retailers like them is that the days when they could abuse their employees are numbered.  New York retail workers have been pushed around in this city long enough; today we're pushing back.”  The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada; it is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Damaris Reyes, Executive Director of the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), said, “GOLES stands with retail workers in our community and citywide in celebrating victory for the workers at the Yellow Rat Bastard retail chain.  The Lower East Side will not stand for illegal wages, harassment and discrimination, and poor working conditions in our backyard.  We congratulate YRB workers on the settlement, and hope it sends strong messages to retailers throughout the city.  As development continues to boom in our neighborhood, GOLES will continue to organize our community to fight for justice and dignity on the job.”

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Seth Kupferberg and Juno Turner, under the supervision of Jennifer S. Brand, Chief of the Labor Bureau. 

Present or former employees of the Yellow Rat Bastard companies who believe they may be entitled to a portion of the settlement should contact the Labor Bureau at (212) 416-8700.


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