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Queens Chronicle

Assemblyman calls out labor sharks

Moya introduces legislation to penalize fraudulent employment agencies

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Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:36 pm, Thu Jun 12, 2014.

Employees have protested them, advocacy groups have rallied against them and now, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) is going after labor sharks with proposed legislation.

Advocates have said there are a number of employment agencies that take advantage of low-wage workers looking for jobs, especially in Queens.

“Roosevelt Avenue is the epicenter for all this,” Moya said.

According to the LatinoJustice PRLDEF, an advocacy group, 30 percent of such complaints submitted to the Department of Consumer Affairs comes from Queens — the highest in the city.

On April 29, New Immigrant Community Empowerment rallied with workers outside of one of these businesses, Excellence Job Agency on Roosevelt Avenue.

Attendees complained the agency charged fees over $100 without delivering the services promised to them.

“I went to look for work and all I found was a hoax,” job-seeker Rosa Pauta said during the rally in April. “I was sent to an address for a drycleaners, where the owner told me they had not asked people to work.”

Owner Rodrigo Ruiz denied all allegations of lawbreaking.

The city and the state have long been targeting businesses like Excellence Job Agency. Investigations had been conducted to review what groups like NICE call fraudulent practices.

These practices include referring clients to workplaces that pay below minimum wage, are not hiring or are giving false guarantees of job placement.

“There is already legislation,” Moya said. “This gives it the teeth that it needs. These companies are abusing the immigrant community and the area as a whole.”

If passed, the bill will require written contracts that inform applicants that they cannot be charged to be referred to nonexistent jobs and will increase penalties for violating laws as well as allow victims to sue for damages.

As for business owners such as Ruiz, who say they are being attacked for no reason, Moya said they should not be afraid.

“It’s very simple, if you’re doing the right thing, you have no need to worry,” he said. “But if you are taking advantage, you will face the consequences.”

Penalizing businesses that violate the proposed bill would be entirely based on reporting, something Moya said victims should have no problem doing, even residents who are not legally citizens.

“We’ve already have been getting reports,” he said. “There’s no fear because the victims know it’s completely wrong what these businesses are doing.”

There is no sister bill in the Senate but Moya is in talks with senators in hope of finding a sponsor.

The assemblyman is also arranging to meet with the district attorney to discuss cracking down on businesses taking advantage of “poor people.”

Moya is confident the bill will pass the Assembly once it goes through committee and onto the floor.

“It’s about taking care of people and making sure they are treated right,” Moya said.

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