A company that provides detailing, valet, car wash and driver services to about 140 dealerships in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania failed to pay overtime to its employees and falsified time records for years, the U.S. Labor Department contends in a civil suit.
Ernie's Auto Detailing and its president, Ernesto Decena, "systematically and knowingly deprived their employees of required overtime pay," the suit charged, affecting 1,504 employees.
The suit filed Dec. 2 alleges that the defendants misrepresented personnel pay rates and hours on payroll documents and "deceptively paid some employees with multiple checks from different bank accounts, or by check and cash."
As an example, the suit said one detailer in New Jersey averaged 66 hours a week between July 2018 and January 2020, but payroll records falsely showed him working only 40 hours a week. Another example, the Labor Department said, was a driver in New Jersey who averaged more than 62 hours a week but whose payroll records falsely show only 30 hours weekly over a 16-month period.
In some instances, the civil suit alleges the Clifton, N.J., company paid below the state minimum wage. The suit covers a three-year period starting in January 2017 and doesn't specify the amount of unpaid overtime at issue.
Defense lawyer Noel Tripp, of Melville, N.Y., declined to comment. A Labor Department spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on the total amount of allegedly unpaid wages or how the agency learned of the problem.