Brooklyn Stores To Pay Back Wages And Reinstate Workers

New York State Attorney General Spitzer announced today that three Brooklyn stores – Super Star 99 Inc.; Less & Plus Discount Inc.; Jimmy 99 Cents Inc. – and their owner, Khubaib Masood, have agreed to settle a lawsuit in which Spitzer alleged that the stores had underpaid their workers and then illegally fired them by closing the stores after his office began its investigation.

The settlement provides that Masood will reopen two of the stores, reinstate all illegally fired workers to their former positions, and pay the workers restitution in the amount of $70,000.00. The workers will also receive three paid sick days and three vacation days each year. In addition, the stores will be subject to monitoring to assure that they comply with all minimum wage and overtime requirements in the future.

"My office is committed to protecting workers who became subject to unlawful discrimination after they speak out against illegal working conditions. We will continue to take action against employers who engage in illegal retaliation," Spitzer said. "The agreement filed in state court guarantees that the workers will now receive the compensation to which they are entitled by law without fear of reprisals for asserting their rights."

Spitzer’s office began its investigation into federal and state minimum wage violations by the three retail businesses in June 2005 after receiving complaints from community groups and employees of the stores. The employees were working up to twelve hours per day, six to seven days per week, but received neither the required minimum wage nor compensation for overtime work. Shortly after being served with subpoenas from the Attorney General’s Office, the three stores fired all the workers and shut down their business operations. The Attorney General then filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement of the workers, recovery of unpaid wages, and protection from future unlawful dismissals.

Spitzer acknowledged the assistance of Make the Road by Walking, a Bushwick advocacy group, and the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union, which originally brought the case to the attention of his office as part of its campaign to improve the conditions of businesses along Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn. "This is a concerted effort to bring about a real change in the working conditions of the labor force in Bushwick," Spitzer said. "My office will continue to aggressively investigate wage violations, and we encourage workers to come forward to report these violations."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Lorelei Boylan of the Labor Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief M. Patricia Smith.