Domestic worker files lawsuit vs NYC real estate moguls over unpaid OT

Under the New York Labor Law, live-in domestic employees are entitled to overtime pay after 44 hours worked each week, and 40 hours for non live-in domestic workers. Stock photo

A Filipina housekeeper is suing Manhattan billionaire couple Gary and Ayala Barnett for non-payment of overtime wages and other alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Maria Lopez filed a complaint against real estate moguls Gary Barnett and Ayala Barnett on September 3 before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for alleged violation of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and the New York State Wage Theft Prevention Act.

Gary Barnett is the founder of Extell Development Company which owns luxury buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He and his wife Ayala Barnett are residents of Rockland County and own homes in Queens, New York; Monsey, New York; and Scott, Pennsylvania.

Lopez was employed as a housekeeper by the Barnetts for nine years. She was a live-in domestic worker when the couple lived in Queens and later in a rented home in Monsey from approximately September 2010 to December 2017.  From about January 2018 through March 18, 2020, Lopez became a non-live-in domestic worker when the couple moved to a newly constructed home also in Monsey, New York.

The Queens residence is an 8,000-square foot home with nine bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. Lopez’s duties, according to the complaint, included “cleaning all nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, the kitchen, living room, and any other room in the house. She also washed, ironed, and folded the laundry for the Barnett family, cleaned up after the children still living at home, ran errands, cooked for the family and their guests, served dinner to the family, cleared the table and washed dishes, and cared for the children.”

At the rented Monsey residence, which had six bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, Lopez performed almost the same duties, receiving instructions on her day-to-day chores from Ayala Barnett.

The Barnetts have another home in Scott, Pennsylvania, which has eight bedroom and five bathrooms.

“The Barnetts and Lopez traveled to the Pennsylvania residence on or about July 12 each year, and stayed there until the family returned to their house in either Queens or Monsey at the end of August so the children could attend school,” according to the court document. “While in Pennsylvania, in addition to her regular duties cooking, cleaning the house, and taking care of the children, Lopez was also required to wash and scrub the outside patio.”

As a live-in housekeeper from 2010 to 2017, Lopez worked an approximate total of 76 to 78 hours per week. She had Saturdays off. She was paid a weekly salary that did not include a statement indicating rate of pay, overtime pay, number of hours worked, and other details. She was paid $800 per week from 2013 to 2014. Toward the end of her employment in 2019 to 2020, she was paid $1,200 per workweek with an additional $200 for transportation because she was no longer a live-in housekeeper.

Under the New York Labor Law, live-in domestic employees are entitled to overtime pay after 44 hours worked each week, and non live-in domestic workers are entitled to overtime pay after 40 hours. 

Lopez is represented by Louis Pechman and Catalina Cadavid of Pechman Law Group PLLC.

“Unfortunately, most families in New York who have live-in housekeepers or nannies, pay them on a weekly salary and ignore the legal requirement to pay them overtime,” said Pechman when reached for comment. “In the wake of COVID-19 we have seen an uptick in cases involving domestic workers who have had to work extraordinary hours but have been cheated out of their overtime.”

© The FilAm 2020

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