Twenty-four car wash workers received settlement checks in March as part of a million-dollar settlement of a lawsuit for unpaid wages against a car wash in Elizabeth, NJ. The case was one of the first brought under a newly expanded wage theft law in New Jersey.
The settlement brings to close a two-and-a-half-year battle against Caribbean Car Wash and its owner for unpaid overtime compensation and violations of the minimum wage laws under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.
Some of the workers, or “carwasheros” as they are commonly known, worked six or seven days a week, typically 11 hours a day, for less than $5 an hour. Currently, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $13 an hour, and will increase each year by $1 until it reaches $15 in 2024. Under this settlement, a number of the workers will receive more than $40,000, with some getting more than $50,000, said Steven Arenson of Arenson, Dittmar & Karban, the attorneys representing the car wash workers. The average plaintiff award in a wage theft case is less than $6,000, according to Samuel Estreicher, a professor at New York University Law School and director of the school’s Center for Labor and Employment Law.