The city of Santa Fe is suing retailer Aeropostale, accusing the teen-centric store of not complying with a city ordinance that requires employers to pay a minimum wage.
Santa Fe’s “living wage” ordinance requires all employers to pay a highest-in-the-nation wage of at least $10.29 an hour.
The city sent letters to the clothing chain’s Santa Fe store in October after a worker filed a complaint that she was underpaid. After the store and the company’s New Jersey-based payroll department didn’t respond, the city attorney issued a criminal summons.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the company again didn’t respond, so a suit was filed in state district court on March 26.
“I have a concern that because they haven’t responded to any of our letters or notices that they may not be paying the living wage to anybody,” Assistant City Attorney R. Alfred Walker said Friday.
The initial complaint came in September from former employee Brittany Olson, who alleged she was underpaid by $24.91 for less than 11 hours work.
Neither the manager of the local store nor the company’s New York headquarters responded to the New Mexican’s request for comment.
The City Council enacted the ordinance in 2002, and it went into effect in 2004, with an initial minimum wage of $8.50 per hour.
There has been only one previous lawsuit, when the city sued the operator of a fast-food restaurant. The restaurant fought the suit, arguing it had less than 25 employees and therefore was not required to pay the minimum.
The company that owned the restaurant prevailed, but the city has changed it ordinance to include all employers, regardless of how many workers they have.
The city minimum wage has increased, based on rises in the Consumer Price Index’s West Region, almost every year on March 1. The current $10.29 rate is a nickel an hour more than the living wage in San Francisco.
Walker said the vast majority of complaints about the minimum wage are resolved by the city’s Constituent Services office. “Somebody will come in (and) they’ll complain,” he said. “Constituent Services will investigate it and … if it’s a valid complaint, they’ll contact the employer, discuss it with the employer, and the employers usually respond and take care of the situation.”
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