Wage Theft Claims Continue in Princeton

Protests at the Princeton 7-Eleven (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Protests at the Princeton 7-Eleven (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Once again, members of the community gathered in front of a 7-Eleven in Princeton to protest the wage theft suffered by some of the store’s workers.

A group of Latino employees has filed a lawsuit charging that the company paid them much less than the $8.38 minimum wage in effect in New Jersey in 2015. Additionally, the company failed to compensate them for overtime, despite their having worked more than 70 hours per week.

One of the plaintiffs, who refrained from giving his name, told Reporte Hispano that he worked at the franchise store for two and a half years.

The Latino worker said that, when he was hired, he was told that the company could not pay him the minimum wage because he was undocumented. He was offered $6.50 per hour, which he had to accept due to his financial need.

Not only did the company refuse to pay him the minimum wage, but the worker was required to work a 12-hour per day shift, six days a week, sometimes seven. To top it off, he was not paid until he had worked for 15 days, and his second check only arrived after he had worked for a month and a half.

As an excuse, the company cited a change in management. According to the worker, the store’s manager changed four times.

The worker said that he got sick two and a half months after he began to work, which forced him to stay home for one week. When he returned to work, he was told that he was no longer an employee.

Aware that he had been exploited ‒ and after learning of two other Latino workers in a similar situation ‒ he sought the help of the LALDEF (Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund) organization which, with the help of attorney Roger Martindell, filed the lawsuit against the franchise for violating labor laws.

The lawyer said that the lawsuit does not only cover the case of these Latino workers but is part of a class action filed by all 7-Eleven workers in central Jersey. The employees suffered wage theft on the part of the company when it paid them salaries below the amount stipulated by the law and failed to pay for overtime.

Representatives of 7-Eleven deny committing any wage and hour law violations, saying that the workers signed documents in which they accepted to be paid the offered amount and to refrain from suing the company.

However, Martindell pointed out that the workers cannot read English. By law, this fact invalidates any document signed under those circumstances.

The worker said that wage theft is common in Princeton, especially in restaurants.

“Most restaurants in Princeton only pay between $350 and $450 per week and make you work seven days. I know many people who work under these conditions. Like me, most of them do not have papers and need the job. They also don’t complain for fear that [the management] will call ‘la migra’ on them,” said the worker.

People working in these circumstances are paid less than $6 per hour and do not receive overtime compensation.

The Princeton Council has attempted to pass an ordinance to punish wage theft, but it has encountered strong opposition on the part of business owners. Early this year, a commission was formed to study a bill to address this issue. However, no date has been scheduled for the commission to submit the results of their evaluation.

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