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Know Your Rights
Source: The New York Times
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

2 Bushwick Supermarkets Settle Labor Charges

The owners of two supermarkets in Bushwick, Brooklyn, agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution to more than 50 employees to settle charges that the stores violated state wage laws, New York State’s attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, announced Wednesday.

In a separate criminal action brought by Mr. Cuomo’s office, two owners of one of the supermarkets, the Associated Supermarket at 229 Knickerbocker Avenue, have pleaded guilty to failure to pay wages and failure to maintain payroll records, both misdemeanors.

The Associated Supermarket, along with Pioneer Supermarket (formerly a C-Town supermarket), at 1115 Pennsylvania Avenue, will pay restitution totaling $1,125,000, as well as state penalties. The owners also agreed to be monitored by Mr. Cuomo’s office, and will submit monthly payroll and time records for five years to ensure compliance with the settlement.

Mr. Cuomo’s office sued the Associated Supermarket last October, after an investigation found that employees at the store were not paid proper wages. The owners, Bienvenido Nunez and Martin Duran, were arrested on Oct. 8. A further investigation into the Pioneer Supermarket revealed similar violations.

At both supermarkets, baggers had been paid no wages at all and had to rely solely on tips for income. In addition, delivery workers often worked 70-hour weeks but were not paid minimum wage or compensated for overtime. Many other supermarket employees also had worked in excess of 40 hours a week, but were not paid overtime wages.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents supermarket workers, said in a statement: “We applaud the attorney general for standing up for these workers and bringing the employers to justice. Other employers should take note: if you violate the law, the sanctions will be severe.”

Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a community organization active in Bushwick, said the settlement “serves to send a strong message to abusive employers that they violate the law at their own peril.”