INWOOD — A Dominican bakery paid an employee less than the minimum wage for almost nine years while forcing her to work upwards of 50 hours per week, before firing her without cause, the worker claims in a lawsuit.
Kenny Bakery owner Hipolito Minaya paid Moraima Ortiz $250 per week in cash for working as much as 57 hours as a cleaner, cashier, sales and inventory clerk from October 2004 until October 2013, according to the lawsuit she filed March 19 in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Ortiz claimed she worked 57 hours weekly from 2004 to 2011, and 47.5 hours per week from 2011 until she was fired from the bakery, located near Post Avenue at 126 Dyckman St.
In addition, Minaya knowingly underpaid Ortiz, neglected to keep wage records and failed to provide annual wage information to its employees, according to the lawsuit which seeks to recover unpaid wages and overtime dating back to March 2008.
"This is an operation up there that was paying sub-minimum wages and you had a worker working under fairly exploitative conditions," said Ortiz's lawyer, Benjamin Dictor. "Now she’s in the streets trying to get justice and in the courts trying to get justice.”
Minaya refuted Oritz's claims, saying she was consistently late and argued with customers.
"I've never had any problems with anyone else," Minaya, 56 said, adding he's owned the bakery for 29 years.
"She's looking for money," he said.
Ortiz's case has drawn the attention of the Laundry Worker's Center United, a worker's rights group that combats wage theft against immigrants in New York and New Jersey. Ortiz and LWCU personnel have picketed in front of Kenny Bakery several times since January, LWCU co-founder Virgilio Aran said.
"For us, hearing her story was a shock," Aran said. "We began leadership training with her about her rights as an employee and an immigrant, and we began organizing for her."
99Pickets.org lists six scheduled protests that have been held outside of the bakery since Feb. 17, most recently on Monday afternoon.
William Adelbot, owner of neighboring Express Pharmacy, said the protesters have been unruly and hostile, adding that he had to call police after they blocked the entrance to his business.
Minaya added that protesters threw things at the door of his bakery.
“They make a lot of noise. They knock on the door, make gestures and run away,” Minaya said.
Aran confirmed that police responded twice during previous protests, but said no charges were brought. He also disputed the claims of unruly behavior, saying the LWCU has videotaped every demonstration for review.
"There has not been any rudeness or misbehavior," Aran said. "We have followed the law."