Attorney General James Recovers $130,000 in Stolen Wages for Unpaid Building Superintendents in Queens
Sanford Apt. Corp Failed to Provide Live-In Superintendents with Any Wages
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her efforts to crack down on wage theft by securing an agreement with Sanford Apt. Corp (Sanford), a cooperative residential apartment building in Flushing, Queens that refused to pay its superintendents for their work. Attorney General James’ investigation revealed that Sanford knowingly and intentionally failed to pay two consecutive superintendents who worked in the building. Instead of fair compensation, Sanford offered the superintendents a rent-free apartment to live in for the duration of their employment. The agreement requires Sanford to pay the $130,000 in cheated wages plus interest that is owed to the two employees.
“Fair pay is both a legal and a moral obligation — it is not a suggestion,” said Attorney General James. “By refusing to provide its employees with wages, Sanford violated the law and took advantage of hard-working New Yorkers. These individuals are finally receiving the money and the justice they’ve long been due. Every single worker has a right to be compensated fairly for their labor, and any employer that attempts to deny the rights of their workers will be met with the full force of my office and the law.”
Attorney General James first launched an investigation into Sanford following a complaint to the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) hotline in November 2020. The investigation revealed that Sanford had explicitly refused to provide wages to its superintendents that had been employed with the company for less than two years. Instead, Sanford established that the rent-free apartment granted to all superintendents would be the only compensation they would receive. Sanford’s actions violated the Minimum Wage Order and New York labor laws, which require all employers to pay covered employees the applicable minimum wage.
The agreement negotiated by Attorney General James ensures the two superintendents are repaid every dollar they are owed for their work at Sanford. Based on the minimum wage laid out in the Wage Order, Sanford owes one worker $39,944.57 in wages plus $9,613.68 in interest and owes the second worker $38,602.29 in wages plus $15,660.40 in interest. Sanford must also provide $26,179.06 in liquidated damages to the two superintendents impacted by the underpayment. $75,000 is being distributed to the workers in the coming days, with the remaining $58,300.02 to be paid in six equal installments every two months starting in June of 2022, and the final payment in April 2023.
As part of the agreement, Sanford must also adhere to all federal, state, and local laws and submit biannual compliance reports to OAG. If Sanford fails to comply with the terms of the agreement or fails to provide the superintendents the compensation required, OAG reserves the right to bring civil action against Sanford.
“Every worker should know they are entitled to fair and just wages under New York’s labor laws, and today’s recovery is well-deserved justice for these superintendents,” said State Senator John Liu. “Many thanks to Attorney General Letitia James for her steadfast commitment to fighting for our most vulnerable, and we encourage anyone who believes they may have suffered wage theft to contact the authorities.”
“I have personally spoken to the attorney general about the need to crack down on wage theft and I am thankful she continues to take these cases seriously,” said State Assemblymember Ron Kim. “This is a great win for the superintendents, and I look forward to continuing our collective work to enforce our state’s laws to protect workers.”
“Sanford Apt. Corp likely took advantage of a tight housing market and high rents in Downtown Flushing to convince these two superintendents they should be satisfied with a rent-free apartment in exchange for their labor. Ultimately, these two workers were cheated out of the fair compensation they were entitled to under state labor laws,” said New York City Council Member Sandra Ung. “I want to thank Attorney General Letitia James and her office for securing back wages for these two employees. This should send a message to other building operators in Flushing that if they try to cheat their workers out of fair wages, there will be consequences.”
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nina Sas, Criminal Enforcement Section Chief Richard Balletta, and Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet of the Labor Bureau. The Labor Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Karen Cacace, and 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.