Attorney General James Delivers Restitution For Wage Theft Victims

Attorney General James Delivers Restitution for Wage Theft Victims

AG James Secures $250,000 in Back Wages for 125 Ambulette Workers

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a settlement totaling $250,000 with ambulette company, Cathay Express Transportation, Inc., for cheating 125 employees out of wages by failing to pay overtime to drivers and even failing to pay minimum wage in some instances. In addition to paying employees back their earned wages, the company’s payment practices will be monitored for a two-year period.

“Every New Yorker is entitled to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” said Attorney General James. “These ambulette drivers provide a crucial service to some of the most vulnerable in our communities, and it’s completely unacceptable that they were cheated out of wages that they earned. My office will fight to ensure all workers—irrespective of where they live or their country of origin—receive the compensation that they are owed.”

The Attorney General's Office began an investigation in January 2018 into Brooklyn-based Cathay Express Transportation’s failure to properly pay its employees, who are primarily from New York’s Asian community. During the investigation, the Attorney General's Office determined that, since 2014, the company failed to pay workers time-and-a-half of their hourly rate when they worked overtime hours and, in several instances, failed to pay workers the minimum wage.

The Attorney General's Office wishes to thank the MinKwon Center for Community Action for referring the case to the Attorney General's Labor Bureau. This settlement is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing efforts to stem the tide of employers underpaying low-wage employees, especially immigrant workers.

“These concerns were raised by the MinKwon Center for Community Action years ago,” said State Senator Toby Stavisky. "I greatly appreciate the hard work the MinKwon Center does for New York’s Asian community and applaud the Attorney General’s thorough investigation into the allegations. The fight for worker’s rights is a tireless one, and I’m glad to see Cathay Express Transportation held accountable.”

“Employers exploiting low-income, immigrant workers by refusing to pay minimum wage and overtime hours has become too common of a practice as they rely on the fear of retaliation they have instilled to keep workers silent,” said State Assembly Member Nily Rozic. “Thanks to the leadership of MinKwon Center for Community Action and Attorney General James, these ambulette workers will not only receive back pay, but can continue providing a critical service knowing that worker protections will be enforced moving forward."

“Any employer who fails to pay their workers fair wages should take heed that they will be held accountable for violating workers’ rights,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “Many thanks to Attorney General Letitia James for her commitment to justice, and I encourage anyone who believes they may have been a victim of wage theft to contact the authorities.”

"When Cathay Express employees reached out to MinKwon in the fall of 2016 regarding wage theft and other employment related abuse, our then employment attorney Jane Kim began conducting intakes and collecting and organizing evidence,” said John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. "Every day we see immigrants with limited English proficiency targeted in different sectors including employment, housing, and immigration, and we thank Attorney General Letitia James for protecting all New Yorkers. We especially applaud the employees of Cathay Express for their courage and resolve in standing up for what is right, and we are delighted that the case has finally been settled."  

The Labor Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office enforces worker-protection laws that protect workers from wage theft and other exploitations and investigates alleged violations of minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and other basic labor laws throughout the state.

If anyone has questions or believes that they have been a victim of wage theft or other labor violations, Attorney General James encourages them to contact the Attorney General's Labor Bureau at 212-416-8700 or Labor.Bureau@ag.ny.gov

This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michael O’Keefe Cowles and Jeremy Pfetsch, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Civil Enforcement Section Chief Ming-Qi Chu, Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet, and Bureau Chief Karen Cacace. The Labor Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux, all under the supervision of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. 

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