Minimum Wage for Court-Ordered Community Service?

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Should New Yorkers who are ordered to perform community service for alleged violations of the be paid minimum wage for their “service”?

That’s the contention of a new lawsuit filed by Brooklyn, NY attorney Andrew Stoll, who contends that this unpaid “community service” (such as picking up trash in city parks (is a violation of state wage and hour laws).

Thousands of cases are settled with community service (via an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal) in New York City every year.  Stoll has filed his class action lawsuit on behalf of two New Yorkers – one an alleged subway turnstyle-jumper and another who allegedly had an illegal weapon in his car. He says those who perform community service are being exploited, likening their work to unpaid internships or, “a maid who is given free lodging but no salary.” 

Stoll insisted that, “The question is whether it meets the definition of employment under federal and state labor laws — and it does.”

Defense attorney, Jonathon Strauss thinks this is ridiculous, noting that an ACD is not tantamount to a dismissal, but is an, “agreement that precludes defendants from bringing a malicious prosecution lawsuit and includes benefits like avoiding court dates and lawyer fees.”  

While there is no clear number of ACD cases that result in community service, 88,000 cases were known to have been resolved with an ACD in 2012. Now, purely hypothetically, if each one of those cases averaged eight hours of community service, at the minimum wage of $8 an hour, and the class action covered a period of ten years, it would result in costing taxpayers $56 million. On top of that, if the lawyers cut were the average amount of 30 percent, that’s a legal payday of more than $17 million.

Not a bad haul for “community service.”


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