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Cheated NY Workers Get Windfall

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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For one contractor, it turns out taking a cab ride home actually made him (and his friends) money. Albeit, it was money he was owed for work done over a decade ago.

The contractor, Jose Lopez, was one of many former immigrant employees of the now defunct Mascon Restoration, a general contractor who underpaid employees on publicly owned building projects in New York.

In April 2012, the firm reached a settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the City of New York, requiring it to pay approximately $1.2 million to its former workers.

New York
© iStock.com / Filippo Bacci

The contractor was accused of underpaying employees, largely immigrants, on many publicly owned buildings in New York.

During the investigation, the company reportedly told the workers that the investigators were actually homeland security agents and the workers would be deported if they spoke with them.

So, even though the city recovered the money, tracking down the workers entitled to the funds proved difficult.

A Cash Cab

A recent New York Times article tells Lopez’s story. The moment Lopez got into a green cab from Manhattan to the Bronx in March, the driver, Mody Camara, recognized his former co-worker.

They had both worked on interior demolition of city-owned apartment buildings in Harlem and were paid about $60 a day, the report said. They should have been paid according to prevailing wages, $45 an hour, pursuant to city law.

“We were looking for you guys [referring to Lopez and two of his other friends],” Camara told Lopez. “Those people were cheating us.”

Camara told Lopez that he was able to make a successful claim with the city comptroller to receive more than $40,000. He used the funds to purchase the cab, he said.

Lopez told his friends about the chance encounter and they were able to verify with the city that they had worked on Mascon projects.

On Thursday (June 16), the comptroller handed checks of up to $50,000 each.

The report said that when Mascon pleaded guilty in state court to a related felony it went out of business.

Camara did not charge Lopez a fare for the ride home, the report notes.


Tagged categories: Contractors; Demolition; Enforcement; Government; Labor; Public Buildings; Regulations; Restoration; Workers

Comment from Jesse Melton, (6/22/2016, 9:32 AM)

Immigrants, legal and otherwise, are told all sorts of things to keep them quiet about issues ranging from trivial to life threatening. A recurring theme is telling the immigrants they'll have to go back home while any complaint they make is investigated. It's an extra nasty thing to do because it's conflating unrelated rules dealing with changing visa types and residency status and appealing related decisions with rules about attempting to, or obtaining, benefits not available for certain visa types and residency statuses. The system for dealing with foreign nationals in this country is so pointlessly convoluted and confusing that it's easy to make immigrants believe almost anything. Immigrants subjected to dishonest behavior by employers are due a lot more than just unpaid wages.

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