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Chinatown Dim Sum Workers Win Federal Lawsuit for Owed Wages

Plaintiff “Vincent” Cao at the Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association.

The Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association (“CSWA”), a partner organization in the CILEC consortium, contacted Catholic Migration Services in late 2018 with a request for legal assistance for a number of workers that they had been organizing who were owed significant sums of wages. The group had worked in a Chinatown dim sum restaurant and most were owed up to eight weeks of unpaid wages when the restaurant closed its doors in August 2018. Jin Ming “Vincent” Cao, an organizer with CSWA, is one of the many workers who was owed unpaid wages and decided to sue his former employers, Joy Luck Palace Restaurant, its owners and its general manager. Catholic Migration Services filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of 19 of those workers, most of whom were Chinese immigrants, employed by Joy Luck Palace restaurant for about two and a half years. The group of workers, consisting of captains, servers, and bussers, pleaded violations of federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws, state spread-of-hours laws, state notice and paystub provisions, and state laws governing the purchase and maintenance of uniforms. The employers failed to participate in the litigation, and, after reviewing the workers’ sworn testimony and employment records, the judge overseeing the case ordered the employers to pay the full amount of damages that the workers sought in the litigation, totaling approximately $950,000.

Although a win for Vincent and his former coworkers, the 19 employees have yet to collect on their owed wages. According to a NY Daily News article, Vincent believes that recovery of the workers’ wages will be an uphill battle, stating that “the restaurant’s owners and operators had plenty of time to hide their assets as the lawsuit ground a conclusion.” Thomas Power, an attorney with Catholic Migration Services who represented the 19 workers in that federal case shared Vincent’s concerns that judgment collection will likely be difficult sharing that  “it’s fair to suspect that [the defendants] have taken some steps to move their assets.” Power added that “there is a bill that was recently passed by the New York State legislature, which advocates refer to as the SWEAT Bill, that would give workers some extra tools to help their efforts in recovering unpaid wages.” As of the date of this posting, that new piece of legislation currently awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

In fact, every year, workers in New York State are cheated out of an estimated $1 Billion that they earn but are not paid. Immigrant workers bear the brunt of this wage-theft, often toiling in low-wage industries where they don’t receive minimum wage or overtime, and sometimes receive no wages at all for days or weeks of work. To learn how you can help fight this epidemic, click here.

Read the full article in the NY Daily News: Workers in NYS are owed up to $1 billion in stolen wages: experts

Stand with Workers Cheated Out of Their Wages

Workers and Advocates Rally to Stop Wage Theft in the Capitol with Assembly sponsor Linda Rosenthal. Photo Credit: SWEAT NEW YORK

Every year, workers in New York State are cheated out of an estimated $1 Billion that they earn but are not paid.  Immigrant workers bear the brunt of this wage-theft, often toiling in low-wage industries where they don’t receive minimum wage or overtime, and sometimes receive no wages at all for days or weeks of work.  You can help fight this epidemic. 

Earlier this year, the New York State Legislature passed the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft Act (the SWEAT Act).  Catholic Migration Services played an integral role in securing thepassage of this bill, which provides critical tools to workers, the NY Department of Labor and the NYS Attorney General in their efforts to recover unpaid wages from their employers.  Too often, employers evade accountability by hiding and transferring their assets once they are sued by employees or are under investigation by the government. Workers and the government obtain judgments for millions of dollars that they never collect.  The result is that workers don’t get their hard earned wages, and their families suffer the impacts – inability to pay for the essentials of life, and increased reliance on public benefits. The SWEAT Act will make it harder for employers to evade accountability for wage-theft, and reduce wage-theft in New York State.

You can help the SWEAT Act become law.  Although both houses of the NY State legislature passed the SWEAT Act in June, it must be signed by Governor Cuomo before it becomes law.  Please urge Governor Cuomo to sign the SWEAT Act (Bill No. S2844B) by calling him at (518) 474-8390, or writing to him at: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, New York State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12247. 

For more information about the SWEAT Act, visit http://sweatnys.org/.

 

 

Workers’ Rights Program Reaches $33,000 Settlement for Domestic Worker in Wage Theft and Harassment Suit

The Workers’ Rights Program won a $33,000.00 settlement for a domestic worker in a case brought under the New York State Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees basic workplace protections for domestic workers.

Our client, a Mexican national worked as a nanny and domestic worker for over six years. During that time she suffered significant minimum wage and overtime violations, as well as verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of her employer. Catholic Migration Services litigated the case in Queens County Supreme Court with assistance from co-counsel from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and reached a settlement shortly before trial in April. 

In the words of our client, “I feel very fortunate that I met the lawyers at Catholic Migration Services. They helped me and defended my rights. I am very grateful.” Catholic Migration Services also helped the client obtain a T visa, as a victim of labor trafficking. The visa was approved in September 2017 and will allow her to remain in the United States with work authorization for up to four years, and to apply for permanent residency after three years. 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP Honored at 5th Annual Sunset Reception

On Thursday, June 13, at the 5th Annual Sunset Reception in Brooklyn, Catholic Migration Services honored Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, recipient of the 2019 Public Service Award for outstanding pro bono work to help New York’s immigrants become U.S. citizens.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has offered invaluable support to the naturalization efforts of Catholic Migration Services, providing attorneys, paralegals, volunteers, and interns for naturalization workshops.

“With their support, Catholic Migration Services has been able to significantly increase the amount of Legal Permanent Residents we are able to serve. Last year the naturalization team assisted over 600 LPRs”, said Chloe Moore, Naturalization Coordinator. “Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has helped field over 700 hotline calls, getting in touch with hotline callers, completing a basic preliminary screening for naturalization, and then scheduling them for intake at the offices in Brooklyn and Queens.”

Thank you for supporting the 5th Annual Sunset Reception. It was a successful event that, like in past years have brought together the New York and Brooklyn law communities to help raise funds to enable Catholic Migration Services to carry out its mission of “welcoming the stranger in our midst.” A great opportunity to mix, mingle, and network with a community dedicated to social justice, we hope you will continue to support our work in underserved immigrant communities in Brooklyn and Queens.

[Photos: Catholic Foundation of Brooklyn and Queens]

Thank You to Our Diamond Sponsors!

 

 

Thank You to Our Gold Sponsors!

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Cullen and Dykman LLP
Mark & Suzanne Colodny

Thank You to Our Silver Sponsors!

Iannelli Construction Co., Inc.

Thank You to Our Bronze Sponsors!

Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP
Michael J. Holland, Esq. and Patricia Holland
Levy Ratner, P.C.
Moris Duffy Alonso & Faley
Rosato Firm P.C.

The Immigration Conundrum

The issue of immigration reform has caught the attention of our country because of the unfortunate practice of separating children from their parents as they approach the border. Some of the people are seeking asylum or a safe haven escaping difficult situations in their home countries, especially violence and oppression. Others come seeking to improve their economic condition fleeing a life of poverty. In his weekly column Put Out Into the Deep, the Most Reverend Bishop DiMarzio revisits the President’s State of the Union address and the four pillars announced as the necessary elements for immigration reform.

Read the full column in The Tablet: The Immigration Conundrum

Queens Immigrants Attend Resource Fair and Legal Clinic

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, District Attorney Richard Brown, and the Queens Immigration Task Force held their Annual Immigrant Know Your Rights Week Resource Fair and Legal Clinic on Thursday, June 28th at Queens Center Mall. Over 30 organizations and agencies participated in the resource fair and connected Queens immigrants with information for city services, nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups. A free legal clinic provided confidential consultations in areas of immigration, housing, employment, and domestic violence. Attorneys from Catholic Migration Services were available for legal consultations and an outreach team informed New Yorkers about the organization’s legal services.

 

Queens residents stop by the Immigrant Resource Fair for a chance to learn about new services, organizations, and agencies.

Queens immigrants chat with the outreach team of Catholic Migration Services to learn about the legal services and know your rights education available through the organization.