The operators of a Flushing co-op residential building have agreed to pay their workers in a settlement with New York State Attorney General Letitia James as part of her ongoing crackdown on wage theft.
The attorney general’s investigation revealed that Sanford Apt. Corp knowingly and intentionally failed to pay two consecutive superintendents who worked in the building on Sanford Avenue and instead of fair compensation offered them a rent-free apartment to live in during the duration of their employment.
“Fair pay is both a legal and a moral obligation; it is not a suggestion,” James said Tuesday, March 15. “By refusing to provide its employees with wages, Sanford isolated the law and took advantage of hard-working New Yorkers. These individuals are finally receiving the money and the justice they’ve long been due. Every single worker has a right to be compensated fairly for their labor, and any employer that attempts to deny the rights of their workers will be met with the full force of my office and the law.”
The agreement requires Sanford to pay the $130,000 in cheated wages plus interest that is owed to the two employees. The investigation was launched in November 2020 after a complaint to the AG’s office hotline. The investigation determined that Sanford had explicitly refused to provide wages to its superintendents and established that the rent-free apartment would be the only compensation they received.
“Every worker should know that they are entitled to fair and just wages under New York’s labor laws, and today’s recovery is well-deserved justice for these superintendents,” state Senator John Liu said. “Many thanks to Attorney General Letitia James for her steadfast commitment to fighting for our most vulnerable, and we encourage anyone who believes they may have suffered from wage theft to contact the authorities.”
Sanford’s actions violated the Minimum Wage Order and New York labor laws, which require all employers to pay covered employees the applicable minimum wage. Under the agreement, Sanford owes one superintendent $39,944.57 in wages and $9,613.68 in interest and owes the second worker $38,602.29 in wages plus $15,660.40 in interest.
“I have personally spoken to the attorney general about the need to crack down on wage theft, and I am thankful she continues to take these cases seriously,” Assemblyman Ron Kim said. “This is a great win for the superintendents, and I look forward to continuing our collective work to enforce our state’s laws to protect workers.”
Additionally, Sanford must also provide $26,179.06 in liquidated damages to the two superintendents impacted by their underpayment. James explained that $75,000 is being distributed to the workers in the coming days, with the remaining $58,300.02 to be paid in six equal installments every two months starting in June, and the final payment in April 2023.
“Sanford Apt. Corp likely took advantage of a tight housing market and high rents in downtown Flushing to convince these two superintendents they should be satisfied with a rent-free apartment in exchange for their labor,” Councilwoman Sandra Ung said. “Ultimately, these two workers were cheated out of the fair compensation they were entitled to under state labor laws. This should send a message to other building operators in Flushing that if they try to cheat their workers out of fair wages, there will be consequences.”