July 26--WETHERSFIELD -- Cleaning contractors working at 18 supermarket locations across Connecticut have been issued stop work orders by the state Department of Labor for violating wage laws.
Paraiba Cleaning Corp. of Worcester, Massachusetts, and USD Cleaning of Hartford were cited for treating their employers as independent contractors as well as failing to obtain Connecticut workers' compensation coverage or unemployment coverage, according to officials with the state agency.
Officials at those two cleaning companies were not immediately available for comment Monday.
A total of 23 employees were providing cleaning services at the 18 Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and Shop Rite locations.
The list of stores the 23 workers were cleaning includes Stop & Shop locations in Clinton and Madison along with three Whole Foods Markets, two in West Hartford and one in Glastonbury, and individual Shop Rites in West Hartford and Canton. When a stop work order is issued, the company is able to resume work when it can provide proof that all deficiencies have been corrected.
Under state law, companies are fined $300 per worker per day for those days it has operated in violation.
Phil Tracey, a corporate spokesman for Massachusetts-based Stop & Shop, said the third-party floor cleaning service that was cited for the violations "was immediately terminated and is no longer servicing our stores."
"Stop & Shop takes its obligation to comply with applicable federal state and local laws very seriously and we expect our contractors and their service providers to do so as well," Tracey said.
Heather McCready, a regional spokeswoman for Texas-based Whole Foods, said a floor cleaning company that had been hired by the grocery chain subcontracted its work to USD Cleaning.
"Whole Foods Market has terminated our contract with that floor cleaning service company," McCready said.
State Labor Commissioner Scott D. Jackson said in a statement that investigators visited the stores on July 19 after receiving complaints that the employees had not been paid properly or were owed wages for working overtime hours. After interviewing the employees, it was determined that some were working seven days a week and receiving no overtime, Jackson said.
"Unfortunately, this is a situation where employees are not being provided the proper workplace protections that are the right of every working person," he said. "These employers are not only taking unfair advantage of their employees, but they are also hurting our state by not paying the proper taxes or providing unemployment insurance and workers' compensation. This is an unacceptable way to do business in Connecticut because our workers are not protected should they get hurt on the job or become unemployed."
Jackson said if that were to happen, state taxpayers would be burdened with the cost of protecting workers, "creating a financial loss for Connecticut's residents and those employers that do play by the rules."
The agency has issued more than 2,000 stop work orders to companies that lack proper worker coverage, misclassifying workers as independent contractors or fail to keep required payroll records, officials said.
Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.
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