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New York Contractors’ Bankruptcy Complicates Immigrants’ Claims to Stolen Wages

Documented

Dec 15, 2022

Lantern House in Chelsea. Photo by Rommel H. Ojeda

A view of Lantern House. Photo: Rommel Ojeda for Documented

Cassway Contracting Corporation and its subcontractor Mario Hernández Infante, who was in charge of recruiting laborers for the company’s projects, may have successfully avoided the responsibility of paying immigrant workers their wages. 

The reason: they declared bankruptcy.

The corporation built some of the most expensive and exclusive condos and buildings in New York City. This includes the Lantern House, a pair of towers alongside the High Line in Chelsea that reached the highest projected sellout price of any condo approved by the attorney general’s office in 2020: $832 million.

Yet immigrant laborers who did the actual work of constructing these buildings say they endured weeks without payment and their wages are still stolen.

Immigrant workers tell their experience: Dolores Correa, an immigrant who fled her native El Salvador to escape domestic violence and poverty, said Cassway Contracting and Hernández Infante “defrauded lots of people.” 

She was hired by Hernández Infante in 2019 to plaster walls for Cassway Contracting. She worked for them for two weeks without pay after being promised weekly payments.

“I did not have money for my kids or anyone to turn to for help,” said Correa, a single mother of two children. 

Claro Velázquez, an immigrant from Honduras and father of four children, was also recruited by Hernández Infante to work for Cassway Contracting at the Lantern House. He said he did not receive any payment for two weeks. 

Some background about the alleged debtors: Allegations against Cassway Contracting of stolen overtime pay go as far back as 2012, while accusations against Hernández Infante of entirely avoiding to pay workers date back to 2019.

James Cassidy established Cassway Contracting Corporation in 2004, and declared bankruptcy in March 2022. Mario Hernández Infante declared bankruptcy in 2018. 

Hernández Infante has also operated businesses that have opened and closed under different names and different locations — all tactics known to be used to evade paying overdue wages and avoid accountability, according to advocates and labor attorneys.

Many workers were hurt by Cassway: “Construction companies use this [declaring bankruptcy] tactic to avoid fulfilling their legal responsibilities,” said Karen Vargas, worker rights coordinator of New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

NICE has documented the cases of 36 laborers — all of them immigrants from Latin America — whose wages, an estimated $110,000, were stolen by Cassway Contracting and Hernández Infante. 

The number of workers denouncing stolen wages is just the “tip of the iceberg,” as many more laborers were probably defrauded, and the actual amount stolen is likely much higher, said Vargas.

Charles Joseph, a New York attorney expert on wage-theft cases who runs the website WorkingNowAndThen.com on local labor laws and regulations, said Hernández Infante’s case also seems to fit a pattern. 

Read the full report on Documented

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