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Workers at Astoria Dry Cleaners Swindled out of $90,000 in Unpaid Wages: AG

The owners of a commercial dry cleaners in Astoria have been busted for duping their workers out of $90,000 in wages (Photos: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash and Google Maps)

Oct. 19, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

The owners of a commercial dry cleaners in Astoria have been busted for swindling their workers out of $90,000 in unpaid wages.

Fat-Lun Kong and Cheng Teh Tang, who co-own Enterprise Cleaner on 42nd Street in Ditmars, failed to pay their employees minimum wage, proper overtime and adequate paid sick leave over a six-year period, the New York Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday.

Kong and Tang, authorities said, repeatedly violated state labor laws by underpaying more than a dozen former workers what they were legally entitled to between 2014 and 2020.

As part of a settlement announced Tuesday, Enterprise, Kong, and Tang agreed to pay the $90,000 in stolen wages to the former employees.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) launched an investigation into the business in Jan. 2020 and found that workers at the 19-64 42nd St. location were not paid the minimum wage rate after it increased to $15 per hour on Dec. 31, 2018. Investigators found the company only began paying workers the $15 rate about a year after the law when into effect.

The company, according to the OAG, also did not have a paid sick leave policy and did not provide employees with adequate paid sick leave. The business also required workers to find a replacement before they could call in sick, which authorities say interfered with the employees’ right to sick leave.

In 2019, the company paid some employees a portion of the wages they were owed. Some of these employees eventually received their full wages a few weeks later but others never received them, officials said.

Attorney General Letitia James said that Kong and Tang duped their workers and stole wages from them.

“All workers should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, but the owners of Enterprise Cleaner took advantage of their hardworking employees, forcing them to work long hours and failing to pay workers what they were owed,” James said.

“No matter the industry, my office will not stand for the abuse and mistreatment of hardworking New Yorkers.”

In addition to paying back $90,000 in wages, Kong and Tang have been ordered to undergo training regarding their obligations under New York Labor Law.

They are also required to update the company’s policies and procedures in relation to pay and sick leave – as well as other workplace issues including sexual harassment and reasonable accommodations. Kong and Tang must also submit compliance reports to the OAG for at least three years.

The investigation was launched after the matter was referred to the OAG by the Laundry Workers Center, a Manhattan-based non-profit group that primarily advocates for immigrant female workers in the industry.

Rosanna Rodríguez, the co-executive Director at Laundry Workers Center, said that the organization has been fighting worker exploitation and wage theft in the laundry industry for over a decade.

“Thanks to the collaboration between the Attorney General’s Office and our organization, we can set an example with Enterprise Laundromat [to] make sure bad actors stop breaking the law and provide decent wages, and safe conditions for workers.”

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