Fifteen people—most of them undocumented immigrants—who worked at a chain of discount stores in the Bronx and Queens in New York City filed a lawsuit against the owners, claiming that they were paid well below minimum wage at $2.27 an hour and routinely worked 11-hour days, six days a week, the New York Daily News reports.
If and when they were given the opportunity to take lunch breaks, it was only for 15 minutes, their suit claims.
Carlos Laguna, one of the plaintiffs suing his store, the Bergen Discount store in the Bronx, said that he and his colleagues were “treated like trash.”
“How do you have so many stores and not pay?” Laguna asked rhetorically.
The suit argues that the chain of stores, including Dollar Rite Discount Warehouse and Barato Discount Store, grew their profits by taking advantage of undocumented workers, who initially accepted the extremely low wages and poor work conditions.
When the workers expressed their concerns to the store owners, they were told that they likely wouldn’t find work elsewhere because they were undocumented. The owners also reportedly threatened to report them to deportation agencies.
The co-plaintiffs are suing for $2 million in unpaid wages and overtime.
Michael Menon, 70, a co-owner of one of the discount stores, told the Daily News that the lead plaintiff, Laguna, is a “criminal” and would not comment further on the lawsuit. His attorney, Michael Chong, said that some of the participating plaintiffs were not even former workers at the stores and are instead “jumping on the bandwagon” to get money in the event the suit is a success.
Read more at the New York Daily News.