Attorney General James Secures $10,000 for Dance Company Workers for Unpaid Wages and Harmful Labor Practices
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that her office secured $10,000 for nine former employees of H+ The Hip Hop Dance Conservatory (H+), a Manhattan-based dance company, for failing to pay rightfully earned wages or properly address sexual harassment claims, in violation of New York’s labor and human rights laws. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that H+ charged for dance classes entirely staffed and run by purported volunteers while the company’s leaders pocketed the funds. The OAG also found that the company’s founder and artistic director, Safi Thomas, perpetuated a hostile work environment.
“Far too often, the physical labor and sacrifice of artistic workers like dancers are overlooked, but every New York worker deserves to be paid what they are rightfully owed,” said Attorney General James. “H+ built a stressful work environment and took advantage of hardworking artists just to pocket the profits for themselves. New Yorkers have my word: as your Attorney General, I am committed to ensuring that no one gets away with cheating hardworking people out of their fair pay or threatening their rights.”
The OAG opened an investigation after receiving a February 2021 complaint from Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading survivor assistance organization. The OAG found that H+ consistently misclassified workers as “members” or “apprentices” instead of employees so that they would not have to pay them for their labor. Profits earned from employees’ hard work directly funded the living expenses of H+’s so-called “artistic echelon,” a group comprised of Thomas and three other members of H+’s leadership team who lived together in an apartment entirely funded by the company. The investigation also revealed that Thomas fostered a hostile work environment, frequently subjecting women employees to unequal treatment and sexual harassment. Further, H+ lacked a formal process for employees to report cases of discrimination.
Under the settlement announced today, H+ will pay $10,000 in unpaid wages to nine former employees, and Thomas will undergo individual training regarding sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment prevention, and an employer’s obligations under the law. H+ will also, among other things:
- Develop anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment training protocols and complaint processes for employees and managers, and submit written materials to OAG regarding these trainings.
- Ensure new hires complete the training protocol within 30 days of the start of their employment.
- Properly classify all persons who perform work for H+ and Thomas as employees and set wages appropriate for their labor in compliance with New York wage laws.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Eric Eingold and Amy Schneider as well as former Assistant Attorney General Roya Aghanori of the Labor Bureau under the supervision of Civil Enforcement Section Chief Fiona Kaye of the Labor Bureau and Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Labor Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Karen Cacace and Deputy Bureau Chief Young Lee. The Civil Rights Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Sandra Park and Deputy Bureau Chief Travis England. 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.