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Cleaning firm owner charged in Brooklyn with violating wage, overtime laws

NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. File photo

NY State Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the arrest and arraignment of Jose Hector Hernandez Gramajo, the owner of the Long Island-based Royal Commercial Cleaning, in Brooklyn Criminal Court for failing to pay proper wages to workers he assigned to clean the United Artists Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 movie theater.

Hernandez and his cleaning company face felony grand larceny and scheme to defraud charges for allegedly making his employees kick back money owed to them from a previous federal investigation, filing false applications for Workers Compensation Insurance and filing false quarterly state tax returns to avoid paying unemployment insurance.

He faces up to seven years behind bars.

"A federal agency caught this employer underpaying his employees and even after that, he continued breaking the law," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "In New York, such disrespect for rule of law and disrespect for workers' rights will get you arrested."

Gramajo, 37, of Huntington, N.Y., owns and operates Royal Commercial Cleaning out of his home. The business cleans at least 27 movie theaters in the New York area, including the movie theater located at 3907 Shore Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

In November 2011 and because of a previous investigation by the United States Department of Labor, Hernandez owed a total of nearly $87,000, including for back wages to some of his 33 employees. According to the Attorney General’s criminal complaint, filed today, Hernandez gave those employees checks for more than $3,000 and told them to cash the checks and return the money to him. Hernandez told the employees that if they didn't return the money they would not have jobs.

In addition to stealing their back wages, Hernandez and his company paid most of their employees a flat rate of $700 or $800 twice a month and did not pay employees overtime for hours worked over 40 hours a week. In general, these employees worked seven days a week, eight hours a day. For these workers, the flat rate was less than the minimum wage. The crew foreman was also paid a flat rate and did not receive overtime pay for the more than 56 hours a week he worked each week.

The defendants were charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D Felony, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, Violations of the Workers Compensation Law, class E felonies, three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, class E felonies, six counts of Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the Labor Law, an unclassified misdemeanor, and one count of Willful failure to Pay Contributions - Unemployment Insurance under the Labor Law, an unclassified misdemeanor and one count of Retaliation, a class B misdemeanor.

New York State's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. After 40 hours worked, employers are required to pay overtime at one and a half times an employee's rate of pay. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting violations of the labor law.

 

July 4, 2013 - 9:00am


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