NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with 3683 Washington Heights Pizza, LLC to reinstate workers whose employment with a Domino's pizza store ended suddenly Saturday night, following a wage dispute with store management. All 25 workers will be reinstated by Sunday at the latest.
"Because of this agreement, 25 workers will be back to work in time for the holidays," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "New York's labor laws exist to ensure the protection and fair treatment of employees in the workplace. My office will take swift action where there is any indication that an employer may have retaliated against workers for complaining about illegal labor conditions."
The dispute in this case focused on employees' complaints, which they shared with management, that they were being paid a "tipped" wage for spending excessive time performing untipped kitchen work. Under New York law, employees who regularly receive tips may be paid a lower hourly wage and the employer may claim a "tip credit," providing certain circumstances are met.
Currently, the tip credit for delivery workers is $1.60 per hour, so they must be paid at least $5.65 per hour in wages. However, in order to ensure that the lower wage applies only to those who genuinely have the opportunity to receive tips, state and federal laws limit the amount of time a lower-paid, tipped employee may perform untipped work, such as cleaning or kitchen work. Furthermore, New York law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who have made good-faith complaints to their employer or to government agencies regarding violations of New York labor law.
The Attorney General's signed agreement addresses only the reinstatement of the 25 employees and does not resolve an ongoing investigation into other potential labor law violations.
This case was referred to the Attorney General's Office by New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and New York Communities for Change, an advocacy group.
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said, "This victory solidifies New York State and New York City's long-standing commitment to worker's rights and is symbolic for the low wage worker movement across the country. Attorney General Schneiderman's office played a pivotal role in ensuring the workers were returned to their jobs, and they had the full support of the Northern Manhattan community, who was on the ground every day over the past week. This shows that not only will our community and elected officials stand up for those treated unfairly, but that we will see the fight through until justice is served. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman and his Labor Bureau for their dedication to the workers of our community."
State Senator Adriano Espaillat said, "I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for helping our community resolve this heartless case of worker exploitation, and make sure the rights of all New Yorkers are respected. I'm glad these employees are returning to work - this time without the abusive demands that Domino's had subjected them to."
Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa said, "These 25 brave men, who put their livelihoods on the line in the face of oppression, proved firsthand that a unified workforce is infinitely more powerful than the owners of these fast food chains. We also proved that when people have the courage to stand up for their rights, the community will rally behind them. For four straight days we told Domino's we would not back down. Now we must build on this momentum to demand that the fast food industry pay the workers the living wage they deserve."
"The decision to bring Washington Heights Domino's employees back to work is a victory not only for them and their families, but for the entire Northern Manhattan community," said Council Member-elect Mark Levine. "I was proud to stand alongside my fellow Northern Manhattan elected officials in demanding workers rights and the fair and equitable treatment for all that those who work hard for an honest wage. We as a community must continue to demand that all those who contribute to the local economy and provide a valuable service be treated with respect. I applaud the efforts of Attorney General Schneiderman's office and am sure these workers are extremely grateful for their assistance."
Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, said, "Fast food workers have a champion in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The $200 billion fast food industry is one of the wealthiest in this country. There's no excuse for companies like Domino's not following the law and there's no reason why its workers should be forced to work off the clock or for less than minimum wage."
Kendall Fells, Organizing Director for Fast Food Forward, said, "Today's victory is great news not just for these Domino's workers, but for all of New York City's 50,000 fast food workers. It sends a clear message that New York will not tolerate a $200 billion industry stealing wages from its hard-working employees."
Jose Sanchez, one of the reinstated Domino's employees, said, "We are overjoyed by the Attorney General's fight on our behalf, and are excited to be able to return to work at a legal wage. This was never just about us alone -- it was about the 84 percent of New York fast-food workers who, like us, are victims of wage theft in our city. My fellow employees and I were so moved by the solidarity and support we received from this community. As we keep up our push for $15/hour and the right to form a union, we know the community has our back."
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Elmore and Labor Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein, with additional contributions by Assistant Attorneys General Haeya Yim, Kevin Lynch, and Claudia Henriquez and Legal Assistant Yadira Filpo, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.
Photo: New York Domino's workers who staged a walkout on Dec. 5 (pictured) have now had their jobs reinstated. DailyKos