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SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL REPORT SHOWS IMMIGRANT DAY LABORERS SUBJECTED TO WAGE THEFT AND WORKPLACE ABUSE ACROSS NEW JERSEY

Report Reveals 48% of Immigrant Day Laborers in New Jersey were not paid; 94% were not paid overtime when due; 43% never given safety equipment; 26% seriously injured at work; and 26% assaulted by their employer.

Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice has issued a report, All Work and No Pay: Day Laborers, Wage Theft, and Workplace Justice in New Jersey, which shows widespread wage theft and worker abuse throughout the state.

For the report, day laborers were surveyed in the New Jersey towns of Bridgeton, Elizabeth, Freehold, Flemington, Morristown, Orange, and Palisades Park during October of 2010. The seven sites were chosen for geographical diversity, presence of significant day laborer populations, and varying levels of organizational support available to the day laborers. The report found less wage theft and worker abuse in towns in which workers enjoyed community support through advocacy organizations (i.e., Bridgeton and Morristown), and greater theft and abuse in towns which had none (i.e., Elizabeth).

The survey findings on wage theft and worker abuse depict:

  1. 48% of workers as having experienced at least one instance over the last year in which they were not paid at all for work they had done (High, 80% Elizabeth; Low, 37% Bridgeton, Palisades Pk., Morristown)
  2. 54% being paid less than promised (High, 93% Elizabeth; Low, 31% Bridgeton)
  3. 94% not being paid overtime, when due, as required by state and federal law. (High, 100% Elizabeth, Freehold, Morristown; Low, 87% Bridgeton)
  4. 14% of those who sustained losses from wage theft lost more than $1000, approximately two to three weeks of pay
  5. 43% were never provided safety equipment (goggles, hardhats, masks, etc.)
  6. 26% were injured at work severely enough to be unable to work for a period of time (High, 66% Elizabeth; Low, 7% Freehold, 8% Morristown)
  7. 26% were assaulted by their employer (High, 50% Freehold; Low, 12% Bridgeton, 16% Morristown); of those who were assaulted, only 14% reported the assaults to the police

Seton Hall Law professor, immigration attorney and report co-author Bryan Lonegan said, “These workers are being robbed, injured and beaten with impunity because of weak, under-enforced and antiquated labor laws. And unfortunately, immigrant day laborers are just the highly visible tip of the iceberg. It happens all the time in restaurants, gas stations, home healthcare, janitorial, laundries, car washes and beauty and nail salons.”

STATEWIDE RATES OF WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS OF DAY LABORERS

Not Paid Underpaid No Overtime Injured Abandoned Assaulted
48% 54% 94% 26% 35% 26%

RANKINGS OF TOWNS BY VIOLATIONS

Percentages of reported violation are in parentheses. Towns appearing in bold have no community organizations advocating for the workers. Towns appearing in italics have community organizers with paid staff.

Not Paid Underpaid No Overtime Injured Abandoned Assaulted
Elizabeth (80) Elizabeth (93) Elizabeth (100) Elizabeth (66) Elizabeth (73) Freehold (50)
Flemington (57) Pal. Park (56) Freehold (100) Orange (31) Orange (46) Orange (38)
Orange (54) Orange (54) Morristown (100) Pal. Park (25) Pal. Park (44) Elizabeth (26)
Freehold (42) Flemington (50) Pal. Park (92) Bridgeton (25) Freehold (29) Flemington (21)
Bridgeton (37) Morristown (48) Orange (91) Flemington (22) Bridgeton (19) Pal. Park (19)
Pal. Park (37) Freehold (43) Flemington (88) Morristown (8) Morristown (16) Morristown (16)
Morristown (37) Bridgeton (31) Bridgeton (87) Freehold (7) Flemington (14) Bridgeton (12)

Seton Hall Law student and report co-author Joshua Trojak said, “We found a correlation between the presence of community advocacy organizations and a decrease in wage theft and abuse. These organizations seem to fill the gaps left by the ineffectiveness of the law.” Fellow student and co-author Joseph Monaghan added, “Although New Jersey has a wage theft statute, it was only used a total of seven times in the entire state last year. Most prosecutors we spoke with didn’t even know it existed.” The Seton Hall Law report recommends that New Jersey’s Wage Theft statute be updated, and includes a model statute in its report. Among the revisions suggested are:

  1. Standardization of the procedure which allows workers to file complaints directly with municipal courts
  2. Create a rebuttable presumption that low wage workers are employees and not independent contractors
  3. Create a rebuttable presumption that employers without state required employee records employed claimants
  4. Impose criminal sanctions against employers who retaliate against employees who file complaints
  5. Impose sufficient fines and damages to deter wage theft
  6. Allow for jurisdiction in either the place of work or the place of hire

In addition, the report recommends that the New Jersey Department of Labor utilize community groups to assist in the preparation of wage theft complaints.

The report may be found at http://law.shu.edu/wagetheftreport

Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is one of the nation’s strongest pro bono and clinical programs, empowering students to gain critical, hands-on experience as it provides pro bono legal services for economically disadvantaged residents in the region. Seton Hall Law is located in Newark, NJ and offers both day and evening degree programs. For more information, visit http://law.shu.edu.