New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Friday announced the conviction and sentencing of Jose Hector Hernandez Gramajo, the owner of Royal Commercial Cleaning, which cleaned the United Artists Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 Movie Theater in Sheepshead Bay.
Hernandez Gramajo was sentenced to weekends in jail for 90 days by Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Alexander Jeong.
In addition to the jail term, Gramajo was ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution to underpaid employees. Of that amount, approximately $8,000 will be paid to two workers who were given checks by Hernandez Gramajo for back wages, following an investigation by the United States Department of Labor.
Gramajo told the workers to cash the checks and return the money to him or they would be fired. The remaining restitution will be distributed to other workers who were paid less than the minimum and overtime wages required by law.
"This employer not only robbed his employees of a lawful wage, but also attempted to deny them back wages, even after a federal investigation into his labor abuses," said Schneiderman. "We will pursue full accountability, including jail time, for any employer who shows such blatant disregard for rule of law and for workers' rights.”
Gramajo, 37, of Huntington, Long Island, was the owner of Royal Commercial Cleaning, which cleaned approximately 27 movie complexes in the tri-state area, including the movie theater located at 3907 Shore Pkwy. in Sheepshead Bay. Since his arrest on July 2, 2012, the company has ceased to operate.
Along with demanding return of the 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 beyond 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.
New York State's minimum wage recently increased to $8 an hour. After 40 hours worked per week, employers are required to pay overtime at one and a half times an employee's regular rate of pay. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting violations of labor law.
Hernandez Gramajo pleaded guilty on January 9, 2014, to a violation of Labor Law 198-a, Failure to Pay Wages, a misdemeanor. Royal Commercial Cleaning Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony.
The case was referred by the Brooklyn-based advocacy group Make the Road New York.
Deborah Axt, Make the Road New York's co-executive director, said, "We applaud the attorney general's fight against wage theft. New York State has some of the strongest worker protection laws in the books but these will mean nothing to working New Yorkers unless they are aggressively enforced. Repeat violators should face criminal penalties if they continue to refuse to comply with the law."