Eight workers are filing suit against their employer, the owner of Caribbean Car Wash in Elizabeth, over allegations that they were frequently denied overtime pay and often paid less than $5 an hour – far below the state’s minimum wage.
The employees – all Spanish-speaking immigrants – frequently worked between six and seven days, pulling 11-hour shifts but were never paid for overtime, according to a statement from their attorney Steven Arenson of Arenson, Dittmar & Karban.
The suit seeks to recover the unpaid wages, including unpaid overtime compensation for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, owed to the workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.
It is not clear which plaintiffs are still employed at the carwash, or how long any of them have been employed there. Roberto Rodriguez, the owner of the carwash, would not comment, saying he had no knowledge of the suit.
The suit marks the latest legal action under a newly expanded wage theft law, which Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver signed earlier this month. The revised law includes ramped up penalties for workers found to have stolen wages from their employees.
Advocates of the wage theft bill argue that the expanded law will greatly benefit Spanish-speaking workers, such as the eight plaintiffs, and undocumented workers, many of whom work at hourly wage jobs and lack understanding of the rights available to them and fear deportation if they report alleged violations.