Central Park Pretzel Vendors To Receive Overtime Pay, Back Wages

>Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement that will provide overtime pay and back wages to dozens of Central Park pretzel vendors with wages, including overtime, to which they are entitled by law.

Under the terms of the settlement, M & T Pretzel Inc. has agreed to pay $450,000 to employees for labor law violations. The employees -- mostly immigrants from Bangladesh -- worked long shifts without receiving overtime pay and, in some cases, without receiving the minimum wage.

"Pretzel vendors are a tradition in and around city parks," Spitzer said. "They often work from sunrise well into the night and are entitled to a lawful wage and to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week."

"This settlement, one of a series of actions designed to enforce state labor laws, will ensure that these workers receive the compensation they lawfully earned."

The settlement is a result of an investigation that began in the summer of 2002, when Spitzer's office interviewed dozens of pretzel vendors in Central Park and learned that they were paid a daily rate from $60 to $75, regardless of how many hours they worked.

The Attorney General found that many of these vendors worked more than 12 hours per day, sometimes up to nearly 80 hours per week, but did not receive overtime pay and sometimes did not even get the minimum wage. State and federal law requires payment of the minimum wage as well as time and a half for overtime hours, which is work in excess of 40 hours per week.

The individuals involved were employees of M & T Pretzel. M & T Pretzel is one of several companies with city contracts to operate stands selling pretzels, hot dogs and drinks at specific locations in and around city parks.

Shortly after learning of the Attorney General's investigation, M & T Pretzel changed its payment practices, offering workers the required basic hourly rate and overtime at 1½ times the hourly rate, as required by law.

Spitzer commended M & T Pretzel for working with his office to ensure that employees are properly paid.

He also acknowledged the assistance the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project, which originally brought the case to the attention of the office.

The settlement will compensate those workers who file claims with the Attorney General's office. Any worker who wishes to receive a claim form should send his name, complete address, and telephone number to the following address:

M & T Pretzel Settlement
Labor Bureau
New York State Attorney General's Office
120 Broadway, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10271

Compensation will depend on the length of employment, wages, and hours worked. No worker will receive any funds if he has not provided the Attorney General's Office with a completed claim form.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Terri Gerstein and General Labor Section Chief Pico Ben Amotz, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Chief M. Patricia Smith.

The case is the latest in a series of actions to protect low wage workers. Spitzer's office has won back wages and other benefits for, among others, supermarket deliverymen, greengrocer employees and bathroom attendants.

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