Attorney General James Recovers $24,000 in Stolen Wages for Former Employees of So-Called Worker Cooperative
Owners of Build With Prospect Forced Workers to Buy Shares of the Design and Construction Company and Stole Their Wages
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced she recovered $24,000 for employees of Build With Prospect, Inc. (Build With Prospect), a design-build company that stole wages from employees. Build With Prospect claimed to operate as a “worker cooperative,” but forced workers to become shareholders of the company by making their employment conditional on owning shares. Build With Prospect workers were required to sign a shareholder agreement and pay $12,000 total for their alleged shares in the company, but they had very little control over the company as shareholders and did not receive any benefits of ownership. In some cases, Build With Prospect collected monthly payments toward the $12,000 fee by unlawfully withholding wages from workers’ paychecks. After Build With Prospect stopped operating, it then failed to pay back the workers who had contributed wages towards their shares. As a result of the agreement announced today, impacted workers will receive $24,000 in restitution from Build With Prospect.
“Every New Yorker deserves fair pay and compensation for their hard work,” said Attorney General James. “Instead of building up our communities, the owners of Build With Prospect exploited workers and unlawfully withheld their hard-earned wages. My office is committed to ensuring everyone receives the wages they are owed, and we will continue to go after employers who prey on hardworking people.”
The settlement announced today resolves a lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) against Build With Prospect and its owners in July 2021. The lawsuit alleged that Build With Prospect and its owners, Jeremy Shannon, Carla Shannon, and James McDaniel, forced at least 15 workers to become shareholders of the company, making their employment conditional on owning shares. The OAG investigation, which included a review of company records and interviews with multiple employees, revealed that Build With Prospect forced workers into becoming shareholders and paying monthly buy-in fees as a condition of their employment. In some instances, the company deducted funds from the workers’ earnings to pay for the company shares. Build With Prospect also attempted to use the workers’ positions as so-called shareholders to apply for certification as a Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS).
The Attorney General’s Labor Bureau enforces laws that protect workers from wage theft and other exploitation and investigates alleged violations of minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and other labor laws throughout the state. New Yorkers who believe they have been a victim of wage theft or other labor law violations are encouraged to contact OAG by filing a confidential complaint online, calling (212) 416-8700, or sending an email to Labor.Bureau@ag.ny.gov.
Today’s announcement is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to crack down on wage theft. In October 2022, Attorney General James secured $90,000 in stolen and unpaid wages for more than a dozen former employees of a commercial dry cleaner in Queens. In April 2022, Attorney General James recovered $175,000 for Gotham Pizza workers who were cheated out of their pay. In March 2022, she announced agreements with two home health agencies for cheating employees out of wages and submitting false Medicaid claims. That same month, she secured an agreement with Sanford Apt. Corp, a cooperative residential apartment building in Flushing, Queens that refused to pay its superintendents for their work.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Anielka Sanchez Godinez and Jessica Agarwal under the supervision of Civil Enforcement Section Chief Fiona Kaye of the Labor Bureau, led by Bureau Chief Karen Cacace and Deputy Bureau Chief Young Lee. 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.