ALBANY -- Saratoga Race Course champion trainer Chad Brown and other well-known New York thoroughbred trainers will pay a total of about $1 million in back wages to employees, penalties and damages for state labor law violations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday in a press release.
The penalties stemmed from a state Department of Labor investigation into wage violations against nearly 350 backstretch workers -- said to be a pervasive issue in the thoroughbred racing industry, in which stables employ low-paid workers, many of them immigrants, who work long hours.
The state Department of Labor received information alleging wage theft and substandard housing conditions. The release did not specify where the violations occurred, but all those cited on Friday race at Saratoga during the summer meet.
According to the statement, Chad C. Brown Inc. violated minimum wage and overtime requirements, affecting 119 employees who acted as grooms and hot walkers. Brown is paying $526,427 in wages due, damages, and penalties. The state said Brown also violated federal and state law by knowingly charging steep fees to workers from other countries who came to work on special visas, demanding $1,500 in cash per worker -- money that along with the unpaid wages will be returned to the workers.
Brown, a Mechanicville native, this year won the Saratoga meet championship for the third consecutive time, with 41 winners during the 40-day meet. Brown has won the Eclipse Award as the top trainer in North America the last three years.
This wasn't the first time Brown has been found to have violated labor laws.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division last May ordered Brown's stable to pay more than $1.6 million in back wages, damages, and civil penalties for willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and violating the labor provisions of the H-2B non-immigrant visa program.
Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Brown's stable paid the largest amount of back wages and penalties under the enforcement action announced by Cuomo, but three other New York trainers who also race in the summer at Saratoga were also penalized.
-- Kiaran McLaughlin Racing Stable Inc. violated minimum wage requirements, affecting 89 employees who acted as grooms and hot walkers. The employer is paying $304,646 in wages due, liquidated damages and penalties.
-- Linda Rice Racing violated minimum wage and overtime requirements affecting 113 employees and is paying $133,747 in unpaid wages, liquidated damages and penalties.
-- James A. Jerkens Inc violated minimum wage requirements, affecting 17 employees, and is paying $13,991 in unpaid wages, liquidated damages and penalties.
Five additional employers are paying roughly $13,000 for wage theft and failing to keep proper payroll records, state officials said.
Two stables were found to have violated state labor laws and committed wage theft. They were ordered by Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to pay the following amounts:
-- Shivmangal Racing Stables LLC and Doodnauth Shivmangal of Woodmere violated minimum wage and overtime regulations, affecting eight employees, and owes $179,283 in unpaid wages, damages and penalties.
-- Leo O'Brien Stables Inc. violated record-keeping and meal period requirements, affecting two employees, and owes $88,809 in unpaid wages, damages and penalties. The same company has additionally paid $550 in unpaid wages to one employee.
The governor said New York's thoroughbred industry is an important economic driver that brings more than $3 billion annually to the state and supports nearly 19,000 jobs, but also said it is imperative that all businesses are given the same opportunity to thrive and that everyone who works in the thoroughbred industry is paid the proper wages they have earned.