Staffers sue LI hedge funder over work wages
Former domestic workers for Long Island hedge fund manager Robert Mercer are suing him, saying in the lawsuit that he didn't pay them for working overtime and unlawfully deducted wages.
Alba Aguilar, Luis E. Castro Alzate and Carmen Rodriguez last week filed the suit in federal court in Central Islip against Mercer, who is co-chief executive of East Setauket-based Renaissance Technologies. The three, who worked at Mercer's Head of the Harbor home, said in the suit they regularly put in between 10 and 15 hours of unpaid overtime a week.
In addition, the suit said Mercer deducted money from a semiannual bonus as punishment for shortcomings that included failing to properly close doors, level pictures, change razor blades in the shaver and replace toiletries if there was less than a third of a bottle remaining.
Mercer's attorney, Jeffrey Naness of Jericho, said of the suit, "We don't think this is a meritorious claim. There is no doubt that the workers here were compensated well above the median workers' wage for the domestic work they were doing. They got full medical [benefits] as well as a pension."
Aguilar, of Richmond Hill, Queens, Alzate, of East Hampton, and Rodriguez, of Flushing, Queens, earned about $45,000 a year while they worked for Mercer and Owl's Nest Inc., the company set up by Mercer to employ domestic workers for his home, said Troy L. Kessler, a Melville attorney representing them.
But Mercer still violated both state and federal law, Kessler said, by failing to pay the plaintiffs and other domestic workers for the work they did. He estimates there are more than 10 other current and former domestic employees of Mercer who could join the suit.
"Federal and state law makes it clear that just because you pay a salary, you can't ignore their rights," said Kessler. "These were people who were taken advantage of."
Kessler said the plaintiffs' semiannual bonuses were "non-discretionary," unlike a holiday bonus for performance.
The deductions to these semiannual bonuses were made without the plaintiffs' consent and were unlawful, he said.
"We disagree," said Naness, who declined to further discuss the case.