Labor Seal NYS Department of Labor                          

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Queens Supermarket Pays Over $300,000 for Not Paying Baggers
State Labor Department finds that employer paid baggers no wages, in violation of State Law

Albany, NY (January 27, 2010) - State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith today announced that a settlement has been reached with a Queens supermarket that did not pay its baggers wages. In addition, the supermarket reinstated an employee who had been wrongfully discharged during the course of the investigation.

In response to a complaint, the Labor Department found that workers at Green Food Corp. were owed $198,248.72 in minimum and overtime wages for the period June 2004 through March 2007. Green Food Corp., located at 94-53 Corona Avenue in Elmhurst, does business as a C-town Supermarket.  Most of the underpayments were for three baggers who were paid no wages at all, only tips by customers. An additional $30,000 was owed to other employees for improper ("spread of hours") wage payments. The total settlement amount equals $331,000 when interest and penalties are included.

In addition, an employee was fired for speaking with the Labor Department about violations. As part of the settlement, Green Food Corp. agreed to reinstate that employee and pay him lost compensation. The employee returned to work on January 18, 2010. 

"It continues to frustrate me how employers can continue to flaunt the law and simply not pay their workers. We are glad that Green Food Corp. agreed to pay workers the wages they owe them, and to reinstate the worker they fired," Commissioner Smith said.

Smith said that baggers at the supermarket were not paid any wages, even though their employer scheduled them for work and issued them W2 forms, a typical indication of employee status. The baggers also did deliveries as assigned and were responsible for cleaning their work area. Their only compensation was tips received from customers, and Green Food Corp. took a portion of those and used them to pay New York withholding and unemployment insurance taxes.

This settlement follows a number of prior cases involving supermarket baggers. In 2008 and 2009, the Department settled seven cases against supermarkets who did not pay baggers, with settlement amounts for the seven cases totaling approximately $420,000.

Also in November of 2009, State Labor Law was strengthened to better protect employees from retaliation by employers. An employer who retaliates against an employee for reporting labor law violations or cooperating with the Labor Department in an investigation now faces a minimum civil penalty of $2,000 and a maximum penalty of $10,000.  Previously, the minimum penalty was $200 and the maximum $1,000.

"We will continue to aggressively enforce New York's labor laws to ensure that supermarket baggers are not left with an empty bag at the end of the week," said Commissioner Smith.