Attorney General James Recovers $90,000 in Stolen Wages for Queens Laundry Workers
Enterprise Cleaner Paid Workers Below Minimum Wage Without Adequate Overtime Pay or Paid Sick Leave
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that she has recovered $90,000 in stolen and unpaid wages for more than a dozen former employees of a commercial dry cleaner in Astoria, Queens. Fat-Lun Kong and Cheng Teh Tang, co-owners of the company JM Pro Cleaner, Inc. doing business as Enterprise Cleaner, formerly known as KTN Cleaner, Inc. doing business as Enterprise Cleaner (Enterprise), failed to pay their employees minimum wage, failed to pay the proper overtime rate, failed to pay employees for an additional hour when their workday exceeded ten hours, and did not offer adequate overtime pay or paid sick leave. Enterprise also consistently failed to provide new employees with written notice of the rate of pay, regular pay day, and other critical information upon hiring. In addition to paying back $90,000 in stolen wages to former employees of Enterprise, Kong and Tang will undergo thorough training regarding their obligations as an employer under New York Labor Law, update company policies and procedures, and submit compliance reports to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for a period of at least three years.
“All workers should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, but the owners of Enterprise Cleaners took advantage of their hardworking employees, forcing them to work long hours and failing to pay workers what they were owed,” said Attorney General James. “No matter the industry, my office will not stand for the abuse and mistreatment of hardworking New Yorkers. I am grateful to the Laundry Workers Center for bringing this case to our attention and look forward to continuing to work together to defend workers’ rights statewide.”
“Laundry Workers Center has been fighting worker exploitation and wage theft in the laundry industry for over a decade,” said Rosanna Rodríguez, Co-Executive Director, Laundry Workers Center. “We primarily represent immigrant women of color who are heads of households. Thanks to the collaboration between the Attorney General's Office and our organization, we can set an example with Enterprise Laundromat. Make sure bad actors stop breaking the law and provide decent wages and safe conditions for workers.”
The OAG launched an investigation in January 2020, after the matter was referred to OAG by the Laundry Workers Center. The investigation, which included review of company documents, interviews with former employees, and sworn testimony from Kong and Tang, revealed that from 2014 to 2020, Enterprise repeatedly violated New York Labor Laws, the Miscellaneous Wage Order of the New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations, and the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.
In interviews with OAG, former Enterprise employees reported they were not paid the minimum wage after it increased to $15 per hour on December 31, 2018, and payroll documents confirmed that Enterprise employees did not receive the $15 minimum wage until about a year after the increase. Former employees also shared that Enterprise, Kong, and Tang did not pay the proper wages for overtime hours. Enterprise, Kong, and Tang also failed to pay employees spread of hours, which calls for an additional hour of pay when an employee’s workday exceeds ten hours.
In 2019, Enterprise, Kong, and Tang paid some employees only a portion of the wages they were owed — some of these employees eventually received their full wages weeks later, but others never received them. Enterprise also consistently failed to provide new employees with written notice of the rate of pay, regular pay day, and other critical information upon hiring. Enterprise also did not have a paid sick leave policy, did not provide employees with adequate paid sick leave, and even interfered with employees’ right to sick leave by requiring them to find a replacement before calling out sick.
As part of the settlement announced today, Enterprise, Kong, and Tang will return $90,000 in stolen wages to former employees.
In addition to financial relief, Kong and Tang will undergo training related to their responsibilities as employers under New York Labor Law, including but not limited to the obligation to pay the minimum wage, overtime, and spread of hours, the obligation to provide paid sick leave, as well as the obligation not to discriminate. Kong and Tang must also develop a plan to revise Enterprise’s policies and procedures related to pay and sick leave, among other workplace issues including sexual harassment and reasonable accommodations. These policies are to be submitted to OAG for approval and will be provided to all employees.
Enterprise, Kong, and Tang will submit periodic compliance reports to OAG for a period of at least three years. The OAG will also have full access to Enterprise’s employees’ contact information during this period in order to ensure compliance.
“An employer who commits wage theft at any scale isn’t just stealing from a worker, they are also stealing from that worker’s family and the law abiding small businesses who cover their contributions to our shared safety net,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee. “I’m so grateful that the Attorney General is using the power of her office to get these immigrant workers what they are owed. I urge all workers, no matter your immigration status, to learn your rights and exercise them.”
“Wage theft is the largest form of theft in the United States, with 2.1 million New Yorkers alone victim to it every year. It makes our city and state less safe for the hard working people who live here,” said State Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. “Today, we are sending a clear message to employers across Astoria and all of New York state: if you swindle workers out of their wages and guaranteed paid sick leave, you will be held accountable. I’m grateful to Attorney General James and the Laundry Workers Center for ensuring that these immigrant women of color get what they are owed. Workers organizing together won a minimum wage, overtime, and paid sick leave — we must ensure that every worker across the state knows their rights to those very things and that they can take action when they are robbed of those rights.”
“I could not be more proud to extend solidarity and congratulations to the courageous Astoria laundry workers who took action together and won back $90,000 in wages stolen by their bosses,” said New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “American bosses steal $15 Billion from their workers every single year, disproportionately from immigrants, women, and workers of color — an unacceptable injustice that we must fight hard to end. I applaud the Laundry Workers Center and Attorney General James on this win. All District 22 workers should know, if your boss is taking advantage of you and you want to fight back, your Council Member is on your side.”
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Anielka Sanchez Godinez, Social Justice Coordinator Francisca Montana, and Civil Enforcement Section Chief Fiona Kaye of the Labor Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Karen Cacace, as well as former Assistant Attorney General Michael O’Keefe Cowles, former Civil Enforcement Section Chief Ming-Qi Chu, and former Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet. Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman of the Civil Rights Bureau also worked on this matter. The Labor and Civil Rights Bureaus are 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.