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Washington Heights Dominos Employees get Jobs Back

Stephon Johnson | 12/19/2013, 11:40 a.m.

Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the signing of an agreement that reinstated 25 Dominos Pizza employees in Washington Heights. The agreement, however, doesn’t solve the ongoing investigation into other potential labor law violations.

A dispute between 3683 Washington Heights Pizza LLC and employees came to an abrupt end several days before when workers’ jobs were suddenly terminated. All 25 workers will now have their jobs reinstated by Sunday at the latest.  

“New York’s labor laws exist to ensure the protection and fair treatment of employees in the workplace,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “My office will take swift action where there is any indication that an employer may have retaliated against workers for complaining about illegal labor conditions.” 

The dispute concerned employees’ complaints about being paid a “tipped” wage for spending excessive time performing untipped kitchen work. New York law states that employees who regularly receive tips may be paid a lower hourly wage and the employer may claim a “tip credit,” provided certain circumstances were met.  

Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, called Schneiderman a champion of labor.

“The $200 billion fast-food industry is one of the wealthiest in this country,” said Westin in a statement. “There’s no excuse for companies like Dominos not following the law, and there’s no reason why its workers should be forced to work off the clock or for less than minimum wage.” 

The current tip credit for delivery workers is $1.60 per hour, so workers then must be paid at least $5.65 per hour in wages. But state and federal laws ensure that lower wages apply to only those who genuinely have the opportunity to receive tips and limit the amount of time a lower-paid, tipped employee may perform untipped work like cleaning and kitchen duties. New York law also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who made good faith complaints to them or to government agencies regarding violations of state labor law.

The case was originally referred to the attorney general’s office by New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and the advocacy group New York Communities for Change. Rodriguez, in a statement, said the agreement signaled New York state and New York City’s commitment to workers’ rights.

“This shows that not only will our community and elected officials stand up for those treated unfairly, but that we will see the fight through until justice is served,” said Rodriguez. “I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman and his Labor Bureau for their dedication to the workers of our community.”

In May, the AmNews reported on the unveiling of a survey by Fast Food Forward, titled “New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast Food Workers.” The survey stated that 36 percent of workers reported being required to work off the clock, 32 percent of cashiers said they were required to pay their employer if the register was short and 30 percent of those who worked over 40 hours a week said they didn’t always receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours.

New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, in a statement, thanked Schneiderman for resolving a “heartless” case of worker exploitation.

“I’m glad these employees are returning to work—this time without the abusive demands that Dominos had subjected them to,” Espaillat said.