In what is likely the largest recovery ever for car wash workers in a wage and hour case, 88 immigrant employees of one New Jersey and four New York car washes received checks on December 20, 2018 as part of a settlement of over $5 million. Some of the veteran workers received approximately $90,000 each, others over $60,000. The workers earned as little as $3.50 an hour, far below the legal New York or New Jersey state minimum wage. Under the terms of the settlement, the 88 car wash workers will receive monies owed to them for violations of the minimum wage and overtime compensation laws.
Reportedly, the defendant car wash owner’s efforts to avoid payment and trial included a years-long delay caused by a bankruptcy filing and an attempt to be declared mentally unfit to proceed to trial.
In an initial round of the case, 18 workers received payments totaling $1.65 million dollars in 2015 and 2016. After the defendant’s bankruptcy filing, court-appointed trustees operated the car washes, then reopened the case to additional claimants, which allowed 88 additional workers to pursue their claims, which initially had been prevented by the bankruptcy filing. The total recovery for 106 workers already exceeds 8 million dollars and may exceed 8.5 million dollars after all payments are made.
“These are hard-working people from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Mali, some of whom worked for the car washes for over 25 years,” said their attorney, Steven Arenson of the employment litigation firm Arenson, Dittmar & Karban.