Long Island Contractor Arrested For Failing To Pay Wages To Day Laborers

State Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has filed criminal charges against an employer who failed to pay promised wages to four day laborers on Long Island. The defendant, Richard Holowchak, was arrested this morning at his home in Locust Valley after he failed to appear at a court hearing scheduled earlier this month.

Mr. Holowchack was arraigned today on four misdemeanor counts of failure to pay wages pursuant to New York State labor law, in Nassau County District Court before Judge Erica Prager. Bail was set at $2,500, and Holowchack will appear before the court again on June 14th. The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise by the court.

In January 2002, Mr. Holowchak hired four day laborers to perform general construction labor for a period of about a month. Two of the workers were promised wages of $90 per day, the remaining two were each promised $100 per day. After the projects were completed, Mr. Holowchak refused to compensate the employees, who worked from sun-up to sunset. They are owed a total of $7,360.

"My office is firmly committed to preventing the illegal treatment of workers who, by law, are entitled to promised wages for the long, exhaustive hours of work they perform," AG Spitzer said. "Even as the economy is steadfast on the Island, some workers are being taken advantage of. It is imperative that we – community and government leaders – act now to give a voice to and protect the rights of all working men and women."

The Attorney General thanked the U.S. Department of Labor for its assistance in this case. The USDOL is conducting a concurrent on-going investigation to determine whether violations of federal law also occurred.

In April 2001, Spitzer announced that his office had formed a task force to investigate allegations that some day laborers – workers who offer their services for construction and landscaping jobs on a short-term basis – have not always been paid promised wages, or protected by workers' compensation coverage or given wage statements, all of which is required by state law. Spitzer's office, which is providing advice to both employers and workers to help them understand their legal obligations, will prosecute these employers who violate the law. The office has mediated several disputes between day laborers and their employers.

Spitzer's office has expressed concern over incidents of brutality against day laborers – most of whom are recent immigrants – and the conditions of the shape-up sites on public streets, which present legitimate concerns of residents on Long Island and their communities. The office is working with other governmental units in matters that affect day laborers, including the proposed shape-up sites.

The Labor Bureau is responsible for enforcing the state's labor laws. It recently has had a series of major victories in protecting the rights of workers, including several involving day laborers. These include a first-of-its kind settlement that assures lawful wages and benefits to predominantly Hispanic workers in the green grocer industry, criminal prosecution of an operator of a Chinese sweat shop, and landmark relief for predominately African delivery workers who were underpaid.