Albany, NY (October 12, 2010) -
Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner today announced a $1.9 million settlement
with the operators of a New York City car wash who failed to pay minimum and
overtime wages to their employees. The DOL investigation covered the
period of June 1, 2003 through August 23, 2008.
David Winter, Ehud Cafri and Ori Apple, operators of the Broadway Bridge Carwash located at 5134 Broadway in Upper Manhattan, failed to pay $1,273,664 in minimum wages, overtime wages and earned tips to their employees. Of this amount, $858,322 is owed to 36 employees for whom the operators maintained partial payroll records. Another $415,342 is owed to employees who have yet to be identified, since the car wash operators paid some employees in cash and did not report them on the payroll.
"This car wash business did business by ignoring labor laws," said Commissioner Gardner. "It was bad enough that workers were not paid minimum wage and overtime for a grueling, 72-hour workweek, but the employer also tried to hide its actions by paying many employees off-the-books. I commend those workers who came forward to expose this employer's shameful acts."
Employees generally worked 12 hours a day, six days a week at the car wash, for a total of 72 hours per week, without being paid overtime as required by law. Some earned as little as $3.75 an hour when the minimum wage was $6.75 (they were paid $270 per week when they should have been paid $594 with overtime), and $4.00 an hour when the minimum wage was $7.15 (they were paid $288 per week when they should have been paid $629 per week with overtime). Employees earned small amounts in tips, which they were forced to share with other, non-service employees.
In addition to the wages owed, the car wash operators must also pay liquidated damages of $127,366 and interest of $345,000 to known employees, plus $214,581 in civil penalties to the Department of Labor. The total settlement amount is $1,960,611. To date, the employer has paid $200,000.
This investigation is part of a continuing initiative by the Labor Department to enforce the labor laws in the car wash industry. In 2008, the Labor Department investigated a sample of 84 car washes statewide, and found high rates of violations, particularly in New York City, where violation rates of minimum wage and overtime laws were as high as 78 percent. Since then, the Labor Department has conducted 75 additional investigations of car washes, some of which were re-checks and some of which were new investigations. In total, the Labor Department has investigated at least 150 car washes since 2008. This represents more than 20% of the approximately 707 car washes in New York State.