Wage, hour and overtime attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the owner of Long Island-based Royal Commercial Cleaning was recently arrested and arraigned for failing to pay proper wages to his workers.
Royal Commercial Cleaning, owned by Jose Hector Hernandez Gramajo, cleans at least 27 movie theaters in the New York metro area. He now faces up to seven years in prison for breaking federal and state law by habitually underpaying his employees.
Gramajo was previously investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011, when he owed nearly $87,000 to many of his 33 employees. He attempted to settle this by giving the workers checks for more than $3,000, telling them to cash the checks and give the cash back to him. To drive his point home he said if they did not return the money to him they would no longer have jobs.
For payroll, Gramajo paid his employees in flat rates, usually between $700 and $800, every month, refusing to pay any more in overtime if they worked over 40 hours a week. Overall, employees of Royal Commercial Cleaning worked seven days a week, eight hours a day; for their working hours, the flat rates they earned were much less than the minimum wage. The crew foreman was also paid a flat monthly rate and did not ever receive overtime pay, despite working over 56 hours every week.
In the court filing, Gramajo was charged with at least four felonies and three misdemeanors, including Violations of the Workers Compensation Law, Scheme to Defraud, Falsifying Business Records, Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the Labor Law, and Willful Failure to Pay Contributions.
Recently in Pennsylvania, several resorts were similarly charged for breaking wage and hour laws. Those hotels include Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center in York County, Avalon Hotel in Erie, and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in the Laurel Highlands. Pennsyvania is actually fourth in the nation for number of hotels breaking labor laws, just behind Alabama, Florida and Texas.
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York County, Erie and Pittsburgh had the highest number of violations, followed by Farmington, Lancaster and Harrisburg. Unfortunately, the men and women affected by this widespread fraudulent practice are low-wage, largely unskilled workers, who are often reluctant to report or even talk about their situations.
They are often subject to harsh retaliation by their employer if they speak up; some hotels even have non-disclosure agreements, which is a legal contract outlining certain information one party agrees not to disclose. Vulnerable workers, such as immigrants, unskilled laborers, or with restrictive financial situations, are too often subject to unfair treatment and disparate wages.
The Heritage Hills Golf Resort, in Springettsbury and York townships, is a repeat offender, despite its status of being a luxury hotel, spa and golf destination. It was previously charged in 2003, 2007, and now, 2013. Among its charges included violating child labor laws.
Heritage Hills’ parent company agreed to pay more than $55,000, along with nearly $5,000 in penalties, in 2010 for back wages for more than 200 workers after a federal investigation. Since then, the company has cut back on employing anyone under 18 and stopped automatically deducting meal breaks from paychecks.
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The Labor Department uncovered nearly 140 violations committed during a two-week period at Avalon Hotel and Conference Center. The establishment agreed to pay almost 70 workers more than $25,000 in back wages in 2009, however, did not pay by the federal deadline. Hotels also have the habit of illegally classifying workers as independent contractors to avoid paying for family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, and other costs.
Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm encourage anyone who feels they are being treated or paid unfairly to contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. The hotel and motel industry is, unfortunately, a hot bed of federal and state labor law violations, and we offer free legal consultations in all 50 states.