Rosa Pauta, Queens, NY
My name is Rosa Pauta. I am a member of the organization New Immigrant Community Empowerment, and I am a domestic worker. A few months ago, I was looking for work but instead encountered betrayal. I went to an employment agency located on 90th Street and Roosevelt Ave where I was charged $125 for the agency to find me a job. They sent me to the address of a laundromat, where the owner informed me that they had not asked for workers. I called the employee at the agency and in a mocking tone, they said, “How can that be?” Later, I called the agency again and they said it was too late and to return to the office the following day in the morning. I went to the office and because I was there, they said they could send me to another two locations because they would not return the money that I had already paid. On top of that, they told me that I was too old and it was for that reason that the laundromat didn’t accept me. But that was a lie because at the agency, aside from me, there were many other people making complaints. Also, the man from the laundromat told me that they were full and that they had not asked for workers. With great difficulty we earn a little money to sustain ourselves and provide for our families. It’s not fair to not find a job at the end of the day AND to lose money. For this reason, we are organizing as domestic workers through NICE and others groups to call attention to all of these agencies and to gain better access to dignified job.
Oscar Ramirez, Bronx, NY
My name is Oscar and I work in the restaurant industry in New York City. I am a member of the organization Laundry Workers Center where I am developing my skills. I began to experience abuse when I started to look for work through the use of an employment agency. They told me that if I pay $100.00 for a training they would give me a job, but that never happened. Later, another agency found me a job where I had to give them 75% of my first week’s salary on top of the advanced fee I had to pay. I am giving my testimony today because it is important to end with employment agency abuse and the abuse of employers.
Maria de Fatima Mosconi, Queens, NY
My name is Maria, and I am a domestic worker and member of Cidadao Global. I have lived in New York City for over 18 years. I have applied for work through agencies that are not in accordance with professional ethics. We have to pay for applications, usually $20, and we are charged for the jobs we get. In addition, we must pay one week of salary to the agency, whether or not we keep the job. Once, I worked in a home for two weeks. When I refused to give away one week of my salary to the agency, they blacklisted me. Another agency discriminated against me based on my age. I am 60 years old, and they told me right to my face that they do not want anybody over 45 years old. I am sharing my experience and of many other friends because I hope the system will change.
Servando Rodriguez, Staten Island, NY
Servando went to a Brooklyn-based employment agency in 2012 where they found him a job with a plumber. The agency gave him the basic job details over the phone. He signed a contract with the agency and paid a $120 advance fee in cash. When he met the plumber, however, the plumber offered him a much lower salary than what the agency had promised. He therefore did not accept the job. Because he had not found employment through the agency, he was entitled to a refund, but the agency refused to refund him when he asked for it. He went to El Centro del Inmigrante in Staten Island for assistance and was referred to LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Employment Agency Abuse Project. Servando sought to recover his advance fee plus an additional amount to compensate him for the many hours he spent pursuing his case. He went before a small claims court arbitrator in Staten Island in January 2014 to make his case, but, unfortunately, the court did not decide in his favor. Servando will pursue other options to report the agency’s conduct. His story shows how advance fees hurt workers. It also shows how it can be difficult for job seekers to hold employment agencies accountable and even more difficult to recover not only a refund, but compensation for the time, energy, and costs involved in seeking justice.
Maria Fretell, Bronx, NY
My name is Maria Fretell and I am a member-leader at NICE. I came to New York nine years ago to provide a better life for my three children who at the time were ages 10, 7, and 4. I came to provide for my children back home in Peru. I was desperate for work because of the day-to-day bills I had to pay here. Any left over money, I would send to my children. I went to a Queens employment agency where they charged me a $70 advance fee and promised me a job — a job I never got. They took advantage of my vulnerable situation, the fact that I had just arrived and didn’t know how things worked here. As a result, I didn’t complain and was even ashamed to do so, but I knew they took advantage of me. The amount of money they robbed me of might not be significant to others, but for me it was huge and I really needed it. Unfortunately, I don’t think this agency even exists anymore.
Narbada Chhetri, Queens, NY
I have lived in New York since 2006. I suffered and struggled in many ways like other workers before joining Adhikaar. When I first arrived, I went to Monarch Human Resource Employment Agency to find a job. I paid $10 for the application form. They said that they would take one week’s salary and they would take out my deposit from my salary too, but there was a stipulation that if I leave or get fired they would refund me. They sent me to a job in Long Island but it was not a good fit, and I was fired after a couple of weeks. When I went back for my deposit they refused. I never got my deposit, $243, or 18% of my monthly salary. The money I lost was and is still a lot of money for me. Agencies know who can be their victim and who is in a vulnerable situation so they take advantage of them. They take advance fees and send more than 10 workers to one place at the same time when they know an employer needs only one person. Some employment agencies send workers to fake placements. In our community center we see exploitation, discrimination and dehumanization by employment agencies. On behalf of all of our members at Adhikaar, I would like to call on our elected officials and government agencies to create strong protections for all job seekers and create a just job market.
Ynes Marticorena, Queens, NY
My name is Ynes. I have had a number of experiences with employment agency fraud with agencies in Queens where I’ve been robbed of approximately $350. What has bothered me most is how agencies treat you. After they defraud you, they make you feel like you have no rights. You feel robbed and stupid because they’ve taken advantage you. There may be good agencies out there, but unfortunately as a new immigrant you may not know of them or how to access work any other way. We depend on agencies to get work quickly. Agencies know the desperate state of immigrants, and they take advantage of the fact that they are new to the country and don’t know how things work or the language. It’s important to educate people about their rights with agencies. And it’s equally important to take a harder stance with agencies and control their practices more to ensure they follow the laws.