New York—Mr. C, a waiter from Bangladesh and a client of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), won a major victory against a prominent downtown Manhattan Indian restaurant recently, receiving $75,000 to settle his claim for back wages he was owed for years of 70-hour weeks without minimum wage, overtime, or his tips in full. AALDEF, a 31-year old civil rights organization, in partnership with Workers Awaaz, a South Asian workers organization, helped the worker seek redress from his former employer.
Said AALDEF staff attorney Tushar J. Sheth, who represented Mr. C, “We are happy that our client finally will receive the just pay he deserves for his work. Hopefully, this settlement will encourage other immigrant workers to come forward to assert their rights, and put employers on notice that they must pay minimum wage and overtime, and cannot steal tips from employees. Regardless of their status, immigrant workers are entitled to the protection of basic labor laws.”
Mr. C, who requested that his full name not be disclosed, added, “I am so glad that my lawyer and the courts were able to help enforce my rights to be paid fairly for what I worked hard to earn. I hope other immigrants can take heart in the justice we achieved together.”
The AALDEF South Asian Workers Project filed suit on behalf of Mr. C in Manhattan federal court last fall, seeking four years of unpaid minimum wage, overtime pay, and tips and successfully negotiated a $75,000 settlement last week. The restaurant had required him to work between 10 and 14 hours a day, six days a week, without overtime pay or compensation for his spread of hours, which is payment of an extra hour at the minimum wage for any day that worked more than 10 hours. The owners not only failed to pay him proper hourly wages, but also unlawfully withheld a significant portion of the workers tips.
Mr. C’s situation is unfortunately similar to that of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers in New York City, including workers in the South Asian community, who work long hours under difficult and strenuous conditions and are not fairly or justly compensated. The AALDEF South Asian Workers Project provides direct legal services free of charge to low-wage South Asian immigrant workers, including restaurant workers, construction workers, domestic workers, taxi workers, and other workers. The Project also promotes community outreach, organizing, and education on workers rights issues. AALDEF continues to provide free legal representation across ethnic communities to Chinese, Korean, and Latino immigrants in partnership with various community-based organizations in New York City through its Economic Justice program.
Anyone interested in contacting the South Asian Workers Project may call the AALDEF hotline at 212.966.5932.