Workers at a local car wash have filed a lawsuit seeking potentially more than $1 million in non-payment of overtime and other violations, including damages.
According to the complaint, which was filed Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, workers allege that Vegas Auto Spa (555 7th Avenue at 19th Street) owner Marat Leshehinsky failed to pay minimum wage, time and a half for overtime, and took improper deductions from the employees’ checks, adding that some of the employees allegedly worked more than 90 hours a week.
Employees were joined by City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union; New York Communities for Change; Make the Road New York; and other supporters, to serve the owner with a copy of the complaint at the car wash on Wednesday morning.
“We are suing the boss because he makes us sign papers that aren’t true,” said Angel Rebolledo, who has worked at Vegas Auto Spa for two years, in a statement. “He says that he pays his workers overtime, but he doesn’t. He claims that we make more tips than what we actually do. He has threatened to fire us if we don’t sign and this is not fair. All the abuse and exploitation has to stop: This is why we are protesting!”
Attorneys say the eight workers involved in the suit may be owed in excess of $600,000 in wages and damages due to non-payment of overtime and other violations, adding that the employer’s total liability could ultimately exceed $1 million.
The owner claims he was unaware of any issues with his employees, and denies the allegations.
“They’re all being properly paid to the best of my knowledge . . . I wasn’t aware of any workers being unhappy or any complaints,” Leshehinsky told the Daily News.
The City Council has legislation pending that might help car wash workers like these around the city. The Car Wash Accountability Act, which would require owners to be licensed and to put up a surety bond to ensure that money is available to pay substantiated claims, was introduced in 2012 — a few years earlier, in 2008, the state Department of Labor found that 78% of NYC car washes had violated minimum wage and overtime laws.
Car wash owners have said the bill would be too costly and could put many of them out of business.
Photo courtesy RWDSU