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Law Firm Hit With FLSA Suit Over Unpaid Overtime

By J. Edward Moreno · November 9, 2020, 6:58 PM EST

An employee of Samuel & Stein filed a potential class action against the New York law firm on Sunday, claiming it violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and state labor laws by failing to pay employees proper overtime wages.

The named plaintiff, Elda Gonzalez, has worked for the law firm since May 2016 doing clerical tasks and translating for the three-attorney firm that specializes in wage and overtime law, personal injury and debt collection. The suit was filed on behalf of people who have worked at Samuel & Stein for the past three years and have not been adequately compensated for overtime.

During her time at Samuel & Stein, Gonzalez translated between the attorneys and Spanish-speaking clients, answered phones, made appointments and advertised the firm by distributing flyers at two locations in the Bronx, including during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the complaint, "despite their knowledge of New York wage-and-hour law" the firm did not pay adequate overtime to Gonzalez as a nonexempt employee at 1.5 times her hourly rate. Additionally, Gonzalez said she wasn't given a state-compliant wage notice when she was hired.

She allegedly worked 65-hour weeks throughout her employment at the firm and was paid a set weekly wage until January 2019, when she began receiving $2,200 every two weeks. Beginning in July, Gonzalez claims she began receiving late payments, often coming a month after, with the firm still owing her wages.

When she complained about not being appropriately compensated for overtime, Gonzalez said partner David Stein told her she should not have been working more than 40 hours to begin with.

According to the complaint, the firm faced some financial hardship during the pandemic and decided to lay off some employees, but not Gonzalez.

Gonzalez also described instances of verbal abuse, including one instance when Stein grew angry with her while she was translating during a client meeting and he called her a "stupid idiot, and threw her out of his office," according to the complaint.

In another instance, attorney David M. Nieporent allegedly scolded Gonzalez when a Spanish-speaking client changed their answer to questions from a previous meeting, claiming she failed at accurately translating their answers.

"We vehemently deny the allegations that are made [in the complaint] and we intend to defend ourselves," Stein told Law360 on Monday.

Gonzalez is asking for attorney fees, unpaid wages and liquidated damages.

Gonzalez is represented by John Troy of Troy Law PLLC.

Counsel information for Samuel & Stein was not immediately available Monday.

The case is Gonzalez v. Samuel & Stein et al., case number 1:20-cv-09350, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Editing by Stephen Berg.

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