Car Wash Workers in Staten Island Allege Labor Law Violations, According to Workers' Legal Team

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NEW YORK--Feb. 26, 2013:  A Staten Island, N.Y. car wash service allegedly violated federal and state labor laws by not paying the minimum wage and overtime to workers and redistributing customer tips intended for car wash workers, according to a lawsuit filed today in Brooklyn federal court.

Clean Touch Car Wash LLC is accused of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), New York Labor Law, and the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act at its 2093 Hylan Boulevard business location.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to pay workers the applicable minimum wage rate for all hours worked, took and redistributed tips customers intended for workers, and sent workers home after an hour or two when the car wash was not busy without paying them call-in pay, as required under New York law. The defendants also are accused of failing to provide car wash workers with legally required notices of their pay rates, regular and overtime hours, in the primary languages of the plaintiffs and their co-workers.

The workers are represented by attorneys from Outten & Golden LLP and Make the Road New York, Inc. The legal team will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a collective and class action to recover unpaid wages and other damages for hourly workers employed by the defendants.

WASH-NY, a coalition of Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union, launched a citywide campaign last year to focus on improving the working conditions of New York City car wash workers.  A report issued by WASH-NY found that 75 percent of interviewed workers reported that they did not receive overtime and over 71 percent indicated that they worked over 60 hours per week. 

The named plaintiffs are Ovidio Lopez Morales and Mateo Lares Michocoj, both of Staten Island. Mr. Lopez worked for the company for 12 years until 2012. Mr. Lares worked for the company for about four years until 2009.

Attorney Justin M. Swartz, of Outten & Golden LLP, stated, "This lawsuit is intended to convince the owner and management of this car wash to change the company's policies and practices and not to take advantage of his hard-working employees. We also hope this lawsuit will help move the New York car wash industry into compliance with federal and state labor laws."

Attorney Julia Dietz, of Make the Road New York, Inc., stated, "This lawsuit shows that car wash workers in New York will no longer stay silent in the face of wage theft. Car wash employees, who are exposed to harsh chemicals and work under difficult conditions, will fight to hold owners accountable and demand fair wages and benefits and dignity on the job."

The case is "Ovidio Lopez Morales and Mateo Lares Michocoj, et al., v. Clean Touch Car Wash and Joseph Scanni," Case No. 13-0991 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York.

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