In the wake of the new minimum wage law passed earlier this month, eight immigrant workers have filed a lawsuit against Caribbean Car Wash Inc. in Elizabeth, New Jersey (CCW), alleging CCW paid them less than $5 per hour for many years and denied them overtime because of their immigration status, or lack thereof. The claim, brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey Wage Payment Law, alleges that the workers were forced to work 11-hour days up to seven days a week for little wages and no overtime pay.
Hoping to curtail wage theft, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver signed a bill that significantly increased the damages and fines against employers who violate the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey Wage Payment Law. The previous version permitted employees to pursue back pay wages for two years; the amended law permits them to demand six years of back pay.
The CCW lawsuit comes after an $8.5 million settlement in 2018 between 106 car wash employees and their New Jersey employers, for payment of back wages and overtime. In the 2018 claim, the immigrant employees were paid $4 per hour, forced to work 12-hour shifts, and threatened with retaliation if the actions were reported to state or federal authorities.
New Jersey’s minimum wage increased to $10 per hour on July 1, 2019, with annual increases that cap in 2024 at $15 per hour. New Jersey employers are reminded that federal and state employment and wage laws apply to all employees–U.S Citizens, immigrants, and even those who, albeit unknown to the employer, may not be authorized to work in the United States.
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