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Monday, November 11, 2013

Exhausted Workers Recall Minimal Efforts to Enforce a Minimum Wage Law

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from

Two weeks ago, Pin Zhu Zheng, who says she worked 69 hours a week behind a steam table at a Chinatown restaurant on Centre Street, presented herself at a New York State office to report what seemed to be flagrant lawbreaking by her former bosses.

“The first day of the month, they pay $1,500 cash,” Ms. Zheng, 55, said in an interview on Thursday. 

“Everyone got the same.”

That works out to about $5 an hour for a six-day workweek that ran from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the law requires a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for the first 40 hours a week. After that, workers must be paid time and a half, or a minimum of $10.88 an hour.

“The Labor Department person told me that I had to wait a year for the follow-up,” Ms. Zheng said through a translator.

But what good is a minimum wage law if it takes forever to enforce it? Complaints with the State Labor Department about wage and hour violations were stacked 14,000 high at the end of July, according to documents obtained by the Urban Justice Center through a freedom of information request.

In May 2012, the records showed, 44 percent of the cases had been open for more than a year, said David Colodny, a lawyer with the center.

Carlos Rodriguez, 28, said he made $4.40 an hour in a pizza franchise on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, cutting vegetables, cleaning, unloading trucks by day and making deliveries at night. “We paid for the uniform, the hat, the T-shirt, the pants, the shoes,” Mr....
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