Car wash workers win settlement against owner

By Patrick Donachie

Workers at a Jamaica car wash won a settlement against the owner after claiming he had paid them below the minimum wage and withheld overtime pay.

A.J.A. Car Wash Inc., Merrick Magic Enterprises, Inc. and owner Jasbir Obhan agreed to a $130,000 settlement in the wage theft case, which was first filed in Brooklyn federal court in July 2015. The settlement was announced June 24.

The “carwasheros,” as they are called, claimed that they were paid as little as $5 to $7 an hour and at times would work more than 70 hours a week without overtime pay.

“The owner never paid us overtime or minimum wage and he tried to intimidate us when we fought back,” said Andres Pu, who worked at A.J.A. Car Wash Inc. for more than 10 years. “Most of all, I hope this is a message to other carwasheros to continue fighting for their rights.”

The workers said that weeks after they filed the suit, Obhan gathered employees to offer them money to drop the suit, but the workers refused. Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy organization, and the law firm of Cohen, Weiss and Simon represented six workers in the suit.

The settlement follows the passage of the Car Wash Accountability Act, which was signed into law in June 2015.

The legislation mandates that car washes be properly licensed and carry indemnity bonds that could be used to collect judgments from the business in the event of a wage theft or hour violation judgment.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.