This week, a New York City based car wash chain was required to pay back wages to employees. The payment, which came to over 3.4 million dollars in back wages and damages, resulted from a lawsuit brought by employees.
Employees claimed serious violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, where the company, Lage Management Company, was found to have not paid employees minimum wage, refused to pay employees over time pay, and did not keep accurate employment records.
An article in the New York Times CityRoom-“Car Wash Chain to Pay $3.4 Million in Back Wages” explores this incident, and shows the perils of the car wash industry and other low-income positions. Low-income workers are often most susceptible to unfair treatment by their employer for a number of reasons. Employees in these positions are vulnerable to unfair treatment by their superiors, may not be aware of the laws that are designed to protect them, and are often afraid to complain about unfair treatment due to their reliance on their income.
Employers who treat their employees in such a way should not be held just accountable for the damages and back wages. Rather, we feel that these acts border on criminal in the same way individuals like Bernie Madoff have fleeced investors, if not worse. Criminal sentences for such flagrant violations should be instituted to ensure that these repeat offenders will definitely learn from their heinous treatment of employees, and help protect employees rights.