NEW YORK — The Department of Labor has filed another lawsuit against Danmar Finishing Corp., a Brooklyn garment manufacturer it charged last month with overtime violations.
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The new complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charges the company with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by firing one employee, Maria Arriaga, and discriminating against other employees who were cooperating with the DOL’s investigation.
“Discriminatory actions such as these have a chilling effect on already-vulnerable workers who seek only their rightful pay for hours worked,” said Tammy McCutchen, administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour division. “We will take whatever action is necessary to protect employees’ rights to testify and cooperate freely with wage and hour investigations.”
Deborah Axtx, a staff attorney at the public-interest group Make the Road by Walking, which brought the Danmar case to the DOL’s attention, said her group’s observations show that the Bushwick factory continues to mistreat workers.
“We’ve been in touch with the workers, and there has been a consistent effort to retaliate and intimidate folks,” she said. “They’ve probably given up on the workers who have been really vocal in claiming their rights. They’re making an effort to isolate them, installing cameras and doing things to discourage workers from even speaking to each other on the job.”
While Make the Road by Walking had initially intended to file its own civil suit, the group instead has decided to help the DOL in making its case.
Tuesday’s complaint names Danmar, formerly Mario Sweater Contracting Corp., as well as its principals Dragisa and Jelena Dimitraskovic and Mica Jankovic. It claims that, after observing Arriaga speaking with a DOL investigator in January, in February the defendants cut her pay and in April fired her. Arriaga had worked for the company 10 years, DOL said.
It also claims that Danmar asked employees to sign false statements saying they were owed no overtime or back pay, after some employees refused to make such false statements to DOL investigators. Employees who refused to sign the statements were not given overtime assignments afterward, the suit contends.
The suit seeks that Danmar give Arriaga her job back and compensate her and any other entitled workers for missed or back pay, and seeks an injunction to restrain the company from taking future discriminatory actions.
Danmar officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The suit filed in May charged that Danmar owed its 175 workers overtime payments dating back to 1998.”