Airline workers illegally forced to pay uniform laundry costs
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Baggage handler

Airline service company Eulen America will reimburse employees more than half a million dollars for uniform laundering costs unlawfully deducted from workers’ salaries, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced.

Under a settlement agreement, Eulen – which provides passenger services at New York’s JFK Airport as a subcontractor to American Airlines – will return $590,000 to approximately 1,500 workers who were forced to pay for laundry costs out of their minimum wage paychecks.

New York labour law requires employers to reimburse minimum wage workers who are required to wear uniforms for laundering costs at a fixed rate per week. Eulen’s failure to follow the law led to consistent minimum wage violations from February 2014 to May 2020.  

“The dedicated and hardworking workers at airports across the tri-state area deserve to be compensated fairly for their labour and reimbursed for what the law clearly lays out,” said Attorney General James. “For nearly six years, Eulen failed its workers by illegally and consistently refusing to reimburse them for uniform laundering, forcing workers to pay laundry costs out of their minimum wage paychecks.

“But today, we’re delivering nearly $600,000 in stolen wages back into the pockets of these workers, especially crucial as New Yorkers continue to suffer the economic effects of covid-19. My office is fully committed to ensuring all workers in the state are justly compensated for their labour, and we stand ready to hold accountable those who commit minimum wage violations in New York.”

The state’s attorney general initiated her investigation into Eulen in November of 2019. The investigation revealed that in addition to the unpaid laundry reimbursements, Eulen was found to have failed to pay the minimum wage established by the Port Authority during the week of 14 September 2015.  

Based on these failures, James concluded that Eulen engaged in persistent and repeated violations of New York state labour laws. Following the investigation, Eulen has agreed to adhere to all federal, state, and local labour laws and may face further legal action if it fails to comply.

Along with the monetary restitution and promise to comply with all relevant laws, Eulen has also agreed to additional terms to ensure pay equity moving forward, including the posting of notices with information on employee rights, wage, and hour laws, and the right to not fear retaliation for speaking out about labour issues; and the maintenance of all employment documents, documents related to employment practices, and records on employee complaints for six years.

Finally, the company must appoint an independent third-party administrator to identify and contact eligible workers and prepare and distribute payments, as well as to provide the Office of the Attorney General with a written plan for this disbursement process.