Community Unites to End Employment Agency Scams

For Immediate Release: April 24, 2014
Contact: Valeria Treves (NICE), (718) 205-8796, valeria@nynice.org Alex Gomez (La Fuente), (201) 286-2180, alexgomez@lafuenteinc.org
Jazmin Chavez (LatinoJustice PRLDEF), 212-739-7581, jchavez@latinojustice.org

As Employment agencies defraud and exploit thousands of job seekers, low-wage workers demand access to dignified and quality jobs through employment agencies

Queens, N.Y. - Workers, advocates, and elected officials rallied outside of a fraudulent employment agency in Jackson Heights, which has cheated low wage and immigrant workers. Today’s rally highlighted that the plight of economically distressed workers throughout New York State. Many of whom are spending thousands of dollars to find jobs through employment agencies only to be scammed and exploited by those agencies. At the rally, workers shared their testimony of being scammed out of their hard earned money. Currently the laws that govern employment agencies in New York are outdated and weak; they fail to offer meaningful protection for workers. Workers and advocates called on stated elected officials to pass legislation to update existing laws with stronger penalties.

New York State’s most economically distressed workers are spending thousands of dollars to find jobs through employment agencies only to be scammed and exploited by those agencies. Currently the laws that govern employment agencies in New York are outdated and weak; they fail to offer meaningful protection for workers. In a study conducted by NICE, 81% of survey respondents who did not find a job through an agency were still charged a fee (average, $122). One third of survey respondents were offered jobs by agencies paying below the state minimum wage of $7.25, a violation of New York Labor Law and the General Business Law (2012). Community organizations are calling on the state to crack down on these predatory agencies and create protection for low-wage workers across the state.

Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya (D-Jackson Heights): “For too long, fraudulent employment agencies have taken advantage of recent immigrants, non-English speakers, and low wage workers by demanding exorbitant fees for jobs that don’t exist. In short, fraudulent employment agencies exploit our most vulnerable--unemployed New Yorkers who are desperate for a job. This should offend anyone who believes that all people, regardless of their immigration or employment status, deserve to be treated with respect and honesty. Labor sharks should be recognized for what they truly are, scam artists. That’s why I will soon introduce legislation that will crack down on labor sharks and plan to make sure that it passes the New York State legislature this year. There is no time to waste."

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James: “Many New Yorkers are feeling the impact of the Great Recession and the job market has still not recovered. It is important that we protect job seekers and end the exploitative practices at some employment agencies that take advantage of immigrant workers. I urge the New York State legislature to pass Assemblyman Moya's bill and end this predatory behavior."

Council Member Julissa Ferreras (D-District 21): “As the representative of a district that is home to thousands of hardworking immigrants, I find it deeply distressing that local employment agencies are conducting predatory practices and taking advantage those who often need the most support in the workplace. This exploitation must end. I applaud Assembly Member Moya for working to combat this issue on a State level, and I look forward to continuing to work with him and La Fuente, NICE and my fellow colleagues in the local government to ensure we strengthen our protection of low-wage workers across our city and state.”

Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-District 25 ): “I stand with Justice for Job Seekers to call on Excellente Employment Agency and many other fraudulent employment agencies to stop preying on our immigrant community. Excellente has a deplorable track record of taking money and not issuing contracts. On other occasions, when they do place these hard-working residents of our neighborhood, they connect them with employers who violate labor laws including paying less than the minimum wage. Stop your illegal practices!”

Council Member Rafael Espinal (District 37): “It is disheartening to know that many New Yorker’s seeking services from employment agencies are victims of serious fraudulent practices. Organizations like Justice for Job Seekers are on the front lines bringing to light these dishonest practices and fighting to ensure that the rights of those eager to be gainfully employed are not violated. I am committed to working with Organizations like Justice for Job Seekers to help combat this ongoing problem in order to prevent New Yorkers from being taken advantage of when seeking a job.” Rosa Pauta, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) Member and affected job seeker: “I went to look for work and all I found was a hoax. I was sent to an address for a drycleaners, where the owner told me that they had not asked people to work. I was very disheartened because I had to walk there for nothing. “

Orfila Hernandez, La Fuente Member and affected job seeker: “As a victim of a predatory agency, I can testify that the current laws are not doing enough to deter scams. New York workers cannot wait any longer, we need Albany’s help and we need it right now.”

Valeria Treves, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) Executive Director: “For years, the Queens community has been complaining about the predatory, fraudulent and substandard practices of local employment agencies. After doing an in depth study on this issue and getting the word out, we found out that this problem is very wide spread; not only on Roosevelt Ave. but also across the city and across the state. We have convened the Justice for Job Seekers coalition to bring this abuse to an end. We appreciate the exemplary leadership that Assemblyman Moya and New York City Public Advocate James are showing on this issue and urge legislators at the state and city-levels to join the cause.“

Lucia Gomez, La Fuente Executive Director: “Low wage workers face enough issues with poor working conditions and non-living wages, being scammed by a predatory agency is simply over the top. We applaud Assemblyman Moya for continuing to show leadership on the issues impacting his constituents and thousands of others throughout the state. We stand committed to work with the legislature to see this bill pass.”

Laura Huizar, LatinoJustice PRLDEF: New York fails to protect low-wage and immigrant workers who rely on employment agencies. The laws incentivize predatory practices by permitting agencies to charge for placements before placing job seekers in jobs and by imposing weak penalties. Legislators should enact a comprehensive reform of the state’s employment agency laws.

Virgilio Aran, Laundry Worker Center, Executive Director: “Predatory practices and wage theft of low wage workers in many cases begin when the step into an employment agency in NYC. Many employment agencies charge a fee to immigrants and non-immigrant workers with a false promise of finding them a job. We shall end this practice."

Justice for Job Seekers campaign has a coalition of over 30 community organizations from through the state aiming to reform the New York employment agency laws in order to: 1) Deter employment agency abuse; 2) Facilitate enforcement; 3) Empower workers; and 4) Improve the job market for low-wage workers.

Join the campaign with #JFJS and make sure to follow on Twitter @J4JS!

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