- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a $925,000 settlement Wednesday with a Kennedy Airport contractor that had been paying skycaps as little as $3.90 an hour - well below minimum wage.

“This was wage theft, pure and simple,” Schneiderman said of the pay earned by 40 skycaps employed by Alstate Maintenance LLC.

The minimum wage ranged from $7.15 to $8 between 2008 and 2014, the years covered by the investigation.

Although most skycaps receive tips, Alstate failed to qualify for a tip credit which would have allowed the company to pay workers at a lower hourly rate, Schneiderman said.

Even if Alstate had qualified for the tip credit, he added, the skycaps’ hourly wages were lower than the legal tipped minimum wage would have been.

“They were cheating in two different ways,” Schneiderman told reporters at his Manhattan office.

The settlement requires Alstate to pay $625,000 in restitution and $300,000 in damages. Additionally, Alstate must implement reforms to comply with state labor laws.

Alstate representatives did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Schneiderman said the skycaps who are party to the settlement will receive an average of $20,000.

“This is a big win for everybody, not just us but for the whole airport,” said skycap Jeffrey Young, 29, who said other airport workers also are underpaid.

Schneiderman said his office began investigating Alstate after several workers told Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which has been organizing airport workers, that they were not being paid the minimum wage.

The union said Wednesday it has opened a 24-hour hotline for airport workers to report wage and hour violations.

Schneiderman urged workers at airports and elsewhere to call his office if they are being paid less than the minimum wage.

“Speak up,” he said. “It’s time to find your voices. We will be there to work with you and protect your rights.”

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