For over six years, MR, an immigrant from El Salvador, worked at a hair salon in Flushing, Queens. MR worked on average 70 hours per week washing customers’ hair and cleaning the store. She was paid less than $6 per hour, well below the state minimum wage and never received overtime pay. MR was never permitted to take a lunch break and often ate standing up. While she was also required to apply harsh chemicals treatments on clients, which resulted in headaches, watery eyes, and chapped hands, the employer never provided her with protection. MR finally complained to her employer about the low pay, long hours, and unsafe working conditions. As a result, her employer fired her. When the employer found out that MR was hired at another salon, the employer contacted the new salon and said that MR was a bad employee and had reported her former employer to the government. The new employer then fired MR.
MR came to Catholic Migration Services for legal help in April 2015. Catholic Migration Services agreed to file a complaint on her behalf with the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL). An attorney at our organization provided advocacy to ensure that DOL’s investigation would encompass six years of wage-hour violations, rather than three years typically investigated, and that the agency would investigate her retaliation claim. MR’s former employer agreed to pay a total of $44,182.50 in owed wages and liquidated damages, and an additional $12,500 in damages for the retaliation.