A group of Latino immigrant car wash employees are receiving a $1.65 million wage theft settlement, the largest settlement of its type for workers in their industry.
The 18 employees receiving the settlement, who worked in New York and New Jersey, will receive $90,000 on average, with a few of the company’s veteran workers receiving up to $200,000.
The case against car wash owner Jose Vazquez– who owned J.V. Car Wash in New York City, Webster Hand Car Wash Corp. in the Bronx, and the Bayway Hand Car Wash Corp. in Elizabeth, NJ– had been litigated in court for five years.
Vazquez had declared bankruptcy as soon as the lawsuit went to court, putting the ownership of the car washes in the hands of a trustee. As the washes’ current debtor in possession, he cannot profit from or manage the car washes until he comes out of bankruptcy.
One plaintiff in the case, Ramon Alvarez, shared how he was paid only $20 a day, most of which was tips, while being forced to work 10-hour shifts. He claims that employees were not allowed to take a break, and lunch was expected to be eaten in between washing individual vehicles.
Alvarez praised the American legal system for its ruling, which he claims will help him return to his native Dominican Republic to open up his own car wash business.