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New York State Attorney General Continues to Aggressively Prosecute Labor Law Violations in Two Recent Brooklyn Cases

Recently, the New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, has prosecuted two companies in Brooklyn courts for a variety of labor law violations.

One company facing serious legal charges is Royal Commercial Cleaning owned by Jose Hector Hernandez Gramajo. On July 4, 2013, Schneiderman announced the arrest and arraignment of Gramajo for failing to pay proper wages to his employees who were assigned to clean a Brooklyn movie theater. Gramajo paid his employees a flat monthly rate of $700.00, which did not meet federal minimum wage requirements and did not include overtime wages. He also faces charges of grand larceny for making certain employees kick back money he owed them from a previous Department of Labor investigation. Gramajo would issue the employees lump sum checks to pay back wages and threaten that if they did not cash the checks and return the money they would lose their jobs. Moreover, Gramajo faces fraud charges for filing false worker’s compensation applications and tax returns in order to avoid paying unemployment insurance. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in jail.

The second company which faced severe legal penalties is a local tortilla factory owned by Erasmo Ponce. The Worker’s Compensation Board and the Department of Labor began investigating the Brooklyn based company, Tortilleria Chinantla, when a 22 year old employee fell into a large dough mixer and died from his injuries in January 2011. Through investigations of the company’s labor practices, the government discovered that Ponce did not pay his workers overtime wages, failed to report all of his employees on his New York State tax filings in order to avoid paying unemployment insurance, and did not provide worker’s compensation insurance to his employees. On July 8, 2013, Schneiderman announced that Ponce will have to pay $450,000 dollars in restitution for various labor law violations and will serve 90 days in jail.

The unrelenting manner in which Schneiderman has pursued these companies proves that labor law violations are being taken very seriously in New York.  This is unquestionably a good trend for those who suffer from the most abusive violations, but for those of you who are being deprived of overtime pay or minimum wage simply because your employer has misclassified you as exempt from the FLSA, or because your employer refuses to pay you these wages, unless your employer is engaged in a larger pattern of defrauding the state of benefits or other illegal conduct, it’s unlikely that a prosecution will result, so your best chance for a remedy it to contact an employment lawyer with experience in recovering overtime pay and/or minimum wages.

Christopher Davis is an experienced employment litigator specializing in class actions, overtime wage recovery, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and Wall Street bonus disputes. Before entering private practice, Mr. Davis served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office where he prosecuted violent crimes as a member of the Sex Crimes Unit.