New York, NY—The Korean Workers Project today announced a $32,000 settlement for unpaid overtime wages on behalf of Mr. Jang, a church janitor and driver who worked for years at a New York City-area Korean American church. Under the terms of the confidential settlement, the identities of the plaintiff and defendants could not be disclosed.
The Korean Workers Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed suit against church officials in State Supreme Court in December 2005 alleging they failed to pay Mr. Jang in accordance with state minimum wage, overtime, and spread-of-hour laws. As the church’s sole custodian, janitor, and driver, Mr. Jang was responsible for duties included driving parishioners to services, doing all janitorial work such as cleaning the entire church, performing all repairs, shoveling the snow in the parking lot, and maintaining the ventilation systems. Mr. Jang regularly worked these duties for nearly 70 hours a week, up to seven days per week.
Although he often worked nearly 12 hours a day, church officials never paid Mr. Jang his entitled overtime wages for each hour after 40 hours a week he worked, nor spread of hours wages for employees who are obligated to work in excess of 10 hours a day. Instead, they paid him only a flat sum of $375 per week at the beginningless than the New York State minimum wage. Although his pay was raised to barely above the minimum wage after a year, he was consistently denied his proper overtime pay and spread-of-hours wages during the years 1999 through 2004.
Said Mr. Jang, “At first, I worked and sacrificed for the church because I thought they would sponsor me for a visa and help me out. But when they fired me after five years of doing all that work for so little pay, I realized that the church was not trying to help me outit was just using my labor instead. I knew something was not right and that this should never happen to anyone else.”
Korean Workers Project director and AALDEF staff attorney Steven Choi, who represented Mr. Jang, said, “Even if you are a church, you must pay the proper minimum wage, overtime, and spread-of-hours wages to your regular employees like janitors and secretaries. This is especially true for workers who are being sponsored for visasthey must be paid even higher, at the prevailing wage. I am glad that Mr. Jang was able to finally find justice for himself and his family.”
Diane Lee of the Law Offices of Diane H. Lee served as pro-bono counsel in this case.