NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Brooklyn car wash is accused of taken its employees to the cleaner’s.
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Schneiderman is going after the owners and managers of Tropical Breeze Car Wash for allegedly ripping off more than 150 minimum-wage workers to the tune of more than $500,000 in pay and more than $30,000 in benefits over six years.
“Wage theft — there’s been a crime wave in this country for too long,” Schneiderman said.
Gerardo Gomez has worked at the Tropical Breeze for the past five years. He worked long hours and never received appropriate compensation.
“He worked overtime, he would never get paid, management would do whatever they wanted with payroll,” an interpreter said.
Schneiderman filed the lawsuit against the car wash; its owner, Benno Gmuer, and its managers, Philip Gmuer and Gregory Gmuer. The Attorney General said the car wash operators used every trick in the book to treat their employees.
An Attorney General’s office investigation revealed that at least as early as Jan. 1, 2012 and through at least Jan. 1 of this year, Tropical Breeze allegedly routinely underpaid employees for the time they worked – including overtime, time spent waiting for the car wash to open, and time that was deliberately cut for their time cards.
Tropical Breeze also did not pay employees for an additional hour at minimum wage when their workdays exceeded 10 hours, though they were required to do so, the complaint alleged.
The car wash also did not pay employees for at least four hours of work when they were set home early as they were required to do, the complaint alleged. Further, the car wash did not reimburse workers for mandatory uniforms and did not give them earned sick leave, the complaint alleged.
Tropical Breeze also failed to keep proper records and illegally maintained two payroll systems – one for “on-the-books” employees who only constituted about a third of the staff, and “off-the-books” employees who comprised the majority, the compliant alleged.
Tropical Breeze also underreported its employee count and payroll expenditures in documents sent to New York State so as to avoid paying full unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, the complaint alleged.
“It’s overtime. It’s cut hours when they’d round hours. It’s just every form of wage theft,” Schneiderman said. “This is like they cleaned everything out and went into the sofa for the small change. I mean every little way they could rip workers off these guys tried to do it.”
Schneiderman estimates that the average car wash worker at Tropical Breeze is owed $36,000.
“In total we estimate that about 150 workers were denied more than $540,000 in pay they were legally owed,” he said.
He’s taking them to court to recoup the losses, hoping the car wash will clean up its act.