Thursday, March 27, 1997
Job-seeking New Yorkers are being ripped off by unscrupulous employment agencies that charge illegal fees, refuse to give refunds and violate other regulations, a new city investigation shows.
Six consumer investigators who went undercover and applied for jobs through 29 employment agencies this month uncovered violations of city rules at all but three of the firms.
In all, the investigators found 51 violations — like those that confronted Deirdre Archibald, a Brooklyn mother of two who said she got a runaround when she sought a job through a Queens employment agency in 1995. The investigation found:
Six of the 29 firms operated without required city licenses.
Nine companies illegally charged fees as high as $100 before placing the applicants in jobs. Fees may be charged only after placement.
Ten of the firms failed to post required signs indicating their license numbers, fee schedule and where dissatisfied clients can file complaints.
City consumer investigators padlocked two other Manhattan agencies — J & U Employment Agency and 8 Chatham Square Employment Agency — for continuing to operate without a license after being cited by investigators last year.
“It is really unconscionable and a disgrace that employment agencies throughout the city are luring the public in with false hopes of jobs and ripping them off,” said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jose Maldonado.
If found guilty, the companies could face fines totaling $37,100.
Archibald, a Grenadian immigrant, said she found out about unscrupulous practices she went to the City Wide Employment Agency in Queens to seek a secretarial position. Her resume outlined her work experience in Grenada and New York.
Archibald said the company charged her $100 up front — then failed to deliver and gave her the runaround when she demanded a refund.
“I was very angry. It was very stressful,” said Archibald. “They gave me a lot of petty excuses.”
Archibald said she demanded her money back after months of constant calls to the firm produced just one job interview — and she did not get that position.
“When I went back for the refund, it was such a hassle,” Archibald said. “Every time I went there, somebody had a backache and couldn’t look through the books right now.”
She filed a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs in August. The complaint produced an $80 refund in December. The refund helped the firm avoid being cited for a consumer violation.
The owner of City Wide Employment Agency denied Archibald’s allegations. The woman, who declined to give her name, said Archibald missed several appointments to settle her refund application. One refund check even was reissued because it expired, the woman said.
“This license is my life, my bread and butter,” she said. “Whatever we do, we have to do honestly. It is my life.”