Attorney General James Recovers $590,000 for Airline Workers Subjected to Minimum Wage Violations
Eulen America Agrees to Repay Employees Who Were Illegally Forced
to Pay Laundry Costs for Required Uniforms Out of Pocket
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with airline service company Eulen America (Eulen) for failing to reimburse employees more than half a million dollars for the laundering costs of their required uniforms that was unlawfully deducted from paychecks. Under the agreement, Eulen — which provides passenger services at JFK Airport as a subcontractor to American Airlines — will deliver $590,000 to approximately 1,500 workers who were forced to pay for laundry costs out of their minimum wage paychecks. New York Labor Law requires employers to reimburse minimum wage workers who are required to wear uniforms for laundering costs at a fixed rate per week. Eulen’s failure to follow the law led to consistent minimum wage violations from 2014 to 2020.
“The dedicated and hardworking workers at airports across the tri-state area deserve to be compensated fairly for their labor and reimbursed for what the law clearly lays out,” said Attorney General James. “For nearly six years, Eulen failed its workers by illegally and consistently refusing to reimburse them for uniform laundering, forcing workers to pay laundry costs out of their minimum wage paychecks. But today, we’re delivering nearly $600,000 in stolen wages back into the pockets of these workers, especially crucial as New Yorkers continue to suffer the economic effects of COVID-19. My office is fully committed to ensuring all workers in the state are justly compensated for their labor, and we stand ready to hold accountable those who commit minimum wage violations in New York.”
Attorney General James initiated her investigation into Eulen in November of 2019. The investigation revealed that between February 21, 2014 and May 11, 2020, Eulen failed to reimburse its workers for their uniform maintenance/laundry, resulting in illegal deductions of these costs from employees' paychecks. The law requires companies to pay for laundry costs as part of the minimum wage and any legally-required overtime rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. On top of the unpaid laundry reimbursements, Eulen was found to have failed to pay the minimum wage established by the Port Authority during the week of September 14, 2015.
Based on these failures, Attorney General James concluded that Eulen engaged in persistent and repeated violations of New York state labor laws. Eulen has agreed to adhere to all federal, state, and local labor laws going forward and may face legal action if they fail to comply. The $590,000 in monetary restitution will be distributed to workers who should have been reimbursed for laundering their uniforms. Along with the monetary restitution, Eulen has also agreed to additional terms to ensure pay equity moving forward, including:
- Compliance with all labor laws;
- The posting of notices with information on employee rights, wage and hour laws, and the right to not fear retaliation for speaking out about labor issues;
- Compliance with all recordkeeping requirements laid out in New York Labor Laws;
- The maintenance of all employment documents, documents related to employment practices, and records on employee complaints for six years; and
- The implementation of an independent third-party administrator to identify and contact eligible workers and prepare and distribute payments, as well as to provide the Office of the Attorney General with a written plan for this disbursement process.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael O’Keefe Cowles, under the supervision of former Bureau Section Chief Ming-Qi Chu, Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet, and Bureau Chief Karen Cacace — all of the Labor Bureau. The Labor Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.