by Rhea Mahbubani
Two workers who claimed in court they were cheated out of wages by a Jersey City-based food distributor have settled their case for a total of $8,500, their attorneys said last week.
The $8,500 includes unpaid minimum wages, overtime compensation, and liquidated damages, said Aparna Garg, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
The suit against Rajbhog Foods, which is located on Newark Avenue in Jersey City, was filed in federal court in August 2010.
According to the lawsuit, the two workers — a 57-year-old Iselin woman and a 36-year-old Jersey City woman — regularly clocked 50- to 60-hour work weeks during portions of 2007 and 2008.
But they were only paid $7.15 per hour (what was then the state minimum wage) for the first 30 hours, and were paid even less for additional hours they worked, the lawsuit said.
According to the law, workers in New Jersey must be paid at least the state minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) for the first 40 hours of work during the week and then time and one half per hour for additional hours worked that week.
The co-owners of Rajbhog Foods, Sachin and Sanjiv Mody, ignored the workers’ repeated pleas for their timely and full payment, and doled out arbitrary wages, once every few weeks, which forced the women to quit, according to the lawsuit.
In January 2011, the plaintiffs reached the $8,500 settlement in which there was no admission of wrongdoing by Rajbhog Foods.
Attorneys for the Rajbhog Foods didn’t return phone calls to comment.
“State and federal laws exist to protect all workers from exploitation and abuse,” said Garg. “Beyond the wages and this settlement, this lawsuit is about basic fairness. Hard work deserves fair pay and these women worked very hard for their employer.”