Eight Spanish-speaking car wash workers filed suit August 13 against Caribbean Car Wash in Elizabeth, NJ, on behalf of themselves and all other workers who were paid below the minimum wage and denied overtime compensation. 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, it is alleged. Currently, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $10 an hour, and will increase every year by $1 until it reaches $15 in 2024.

A new law in New Jersey — signed by Acting Governor Shelia Oliver on August 6, 2019 — toughens the penalties imposed on employers who commit wage theft and allows workers to recover unpaid wages going back six years, as opposed to the two-year claim period under the old law.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Steven Arenson of Arenson, Dittmar & Karban. In 2018, Arenson won a seven-year battle with the owner of four New York and New Jersey car washes, one of which was in Elizabeth, NJ, resulting in the payment of over $8.5 million for 106 workers, many of whom had been paid $4 an hour for years. It was the largest recovery ever made in the car wash industry.