Frank Lovece in Legal/Financial on February 7, 2014
"This is an employer who over the last six years hasn't been paying the money he owes," Seth Goldstein, the business agent of Local 153 of the Office & Professional Employees International Union, told the Daily News. The OPEIU, which represents roughly 50 of the plaintiffs, is one of seven labor unions at Co-op City that have been impacted.
Also named in the suit is Marion Scott Real Estate, the Manhattan company that works with RiverBay to manage Co-op City. "Any notion that [Marion principal Herbert] Freedman or Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. are making a profit at the expense of RiverBay’s employees is simply false," attorney Scott Trivella of Trivella & Forte & Smith, the defendants' lawyer, told the Daily News.
The lawsuit says employees were offered comp time rather than overtime pay, which the paper said is illegal, and worked without pay or at illegal rates during meal breaks and before and after shifts. Freedman told the Daily News that the workers were paid according to the strict letter of their contracts.
The workers in December amended their previously filed complaint to adding RiverBay's director of finance, Peter Merola, as a defendant. The amendment claims Merola "at which RiverBay's compensatory time policy was terminated, researched and attended a webinar about RiverBay's payment policies after the present lawsuit was filed, authorizes employee requests for overtime and regularly responds to Board of Director inquiries about payroll issues and wages," according to the legal-industry website Law360.com.
On Jan. 27, the defendants argued to dismiss that motion, stating that Merola — whose position, the workers said, gave him much discretion over wages — was not directly the workers' employer. The court has made no decision on whether Merola can be added to the lawsuit. The defendants also say the workers have no basis to sue until they first exhaust their collective-bargaining grievance procedures on the matter.
Co-op City — a middle-income cooperative whose 15,372 residential units in 25 high-rise buildings and seven clusters of townhouses make it the largest single residential development in the country — experienced a strike by 500 porters, handymen, garbage collectors and groundskeepers with Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union in June 2010, following unlawful-lockout charges the SEIU filed with the National Labor Relations Board against RiverBay.
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