A $2 million lawsuit has been filed against a discount store chain with locations in the Bronx and Queens boroughs of New York City. According to New York Daily News, the lawsuit was filed by approximately 15 workers, mostly illegal immigrants, who have been underpaid for years.
It has been reported that the workers endured poor working conditions and were paid below minimum wage, earning approximately $2.27 – $2.75 an hour. Most of the workers also stated that they’ve been “treated like trash,” and worked vigorous 11-hour shifts six days a week.
According to court documentation, the plaintiffs insist the discount store chain – including stores like Dollar Rite Discount Warehouse and Barato Discount Store – has profited by taking advantage of illegal immigrants they can underpay. Although the illegal immigrants admit they initially accepted the daunting conditions and poor pay, they feel the conditions should have gradually improved, but to no avail. Even after voicing their concerns, no changes were made. So, when the workers attempted to take action by refusing to work, their futile attempts were met with opposition.
Getting illegally paid $2.75 an hour in New York City felt like being a slave | Carlos Laguna: I worked 11 hou… http://t.co/CpBLyCCVJx
— Guardian Careers (@GuardianCareers) March 13, 2015
The workers also claim they were blackmailed by store owners and management after taking the jobs and accepting the terms and conditions. The store owners have been accused of telling works they’d be unable to find other jobs as illegal immigrants. Some allegedly threatened to report their illegal statuses to deportation agencies, reports Financial Juneteenth.
“Upon protesting their sweatshop wages and conditions, plaintiffs were repeatedly advised… that plaintiffs would not receive a job elsewhere without documentation, and that defendants would report the plaintiffs to immigration authorities if they said anything,” court papers read.
Carlos Laguna, who worked at Bergen Discount in the Bronx, recently shared a personal account of the poor working conditions he endured for more than four years working at one of discount store chain’s Bronx locations. Here’s Carlos’ account published via The Guardian:
“For the 4 years that I worked there, I had to work 11 hours a day, six days a week, unloading deliveries from trucks, dividing the merchandise and stocking the shelves. Sometimes it was more than that. It felt like being a slave. We were always being yelled at by our boss, who talked to us like we were animals for slaughter. For lunch we only got 15 to 20 minutes. If we were late, we would have to face staying home for three days without any pay. The job made us feel horrible.”
“How do you have so many stores and not pay?” Laguna argued.
One of the store’s co-owners, Michael Menon, briefly spoke with New York Daily News in reference to the controversial lawsuit. He accused Laguna of being a “criminal.” However, he refused to offer specifics about his accusatory claims, His attorney and insists all of the other workers are “jumping on the bandwagon” in the event Laguna’s claims are deemed favorable. The shocking civil lawsuit has caught the attention of many readers online, because most have argued that the discount store workers should have no rights or be entitled to justice as illegal immigrants regardless of the low wages and desolate working conditions. However, there are some who sympathize with the mistreated illegal immigrant workers.
“People used to find another job and leave the bad one. Now you stay and sue??? The courts should go after the business for illegal employment practices but not award the workers for bad decisions…”
“Wow how sad. I don’t care if they undocumented or document, they are not slaves…Well I believe that person should be paid for the work that he or she does.”
“You come in illegally then expect “justice?” The American people should be the ones expecting justice.”
“One thing though, if the allegation that they knowingly hired Illegals is proven true there should be criminal charges against the owners and if convicted, prison time as well as monetary penalties should be applied. A painful example must be made of them (the owners) in order to deter others who might feel inclined to hire illegals not do so. Cut off the job supply and there is no reason for illegals to come here.”
Although the workers are reportedly seeking $2 million in unpaid wages and damages, the amount could increase if Federal Judge Robert Sweet upgrades the lawsuit to class action.
Do you think the illegal immigrants should be compensated for the low wages and harsh working conditions they endured? Share your thoughts.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]