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Westchester County Wage Theft Trial Makes History

Posted on May 15, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

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First Case to Appear in Federal Court Wins Maximum Amount

By Teresa Santiago and Alice Kenny

In a history-making event, justice finally came to three day laborers whose wages had been stolen by their employer, thanks to significant intervention by Catholic Charities NY.  A jury determined last Thursday, May 9, 2019, that TDL Restoration Inc. and its relating contractor company, TDL Management Corp., stiffed three of its employees for thousands of hours worked.  The contractor did not pay the men regular wages nor overtime and when it issued paychecks they often bounced.  Not only did the jury find in favor of the plaintiffs, Jose Bisono, Joaquin Vicente and Edgar Mendez, on all questions, but they are expected to be awarded the maximum damages permissible, close to $300,000, for violations of Federal and State labor laws. 

“We were scared,” said Mr. Vicente.  “They tried to intimidate us and belittle us.”

Unfortunately, these three day laborers’ plight is not unusual 

Unscrupulous contractors often stiff this group of men they consider not only vulnerable but powerless.  Day laborers, typically immigrants, wait on corners under scorching sun and bitter cold hoping a contractor will offer them a job. 
When left unpaid, they often feel powerless because of poverty and often lacking of legal status, to fight back.

Not this time

A team of organizations including Catholic Charities NY stood up to win this impressive victory for these otherwise defenseless men.  Organizations included the Workers Justice legal team as well as National Day Laborer Organizing Network organizations.  Counted among these organizations are Catholic Charities Obreros Unidos of Yonkers, Community Resource Center, United Community Center, Don Bosco Workers and Neighbors Link.

The case dragged on for over a year, with court dates, mediations and finally the trial held in the intimidating cement and brick Charles L. Brieant Jr. Federal Courthouse in White Plains.

“We stood our ground (because) we wanted to show other day laborers that they too could take on such a strong company and win,” Mr. Vicente added.  “We wanted to highlight the ongoing abuse faced by many other workers who are simply trying to provide for their family.”

Justice Judith C. McCarthy, the judge presiding over the case, is expected to announce the final award this Thursday, May 16, based on a calculation of unpaid hours worked, pain and suffering and attorney fees.

Catholic Charities works with Obreros Unidos de Yonkers, a group of approximately 500 day-laborers from Yonkers and day laborers in the Bronx as well. Together they

  • Educate workers on employment rights and responsibilities to prevent exploitation and workplace abuses. 
  • Assist with integrating workers into the society
  • Provide local resources
  • Host presentations and training on worker’s rights and safety in the workplace
  • Provide help with immigration
  • Issue membership cards with identifying information;
  • Provide office and meeting space, as well as administrative support for the workers 
  • Assist with collecting unpaid wages
  • Help access healthcare services
  • Provide emergency food
  • Link to classes in English as a second language and computer work
  • Facilitate conversations with local business owners, police, elected officials and the community

“Wage theft by TDL Restoration not only hurts the individual workers who should have been paid more under federal and state law,” said Catholic Charites Community Services Westchester Regional Director Esmeralda Hoscoy, “but also the businesses of law-abiding contractors whose bids on contracts are hired to reflect their higher labor cost.