Labor Scam Hits Hartford Latino Businesses


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 Robert Cyr

State officials are investigating recent complaints from Latino bodega owners on Park Street and Franklin Avenue in Hartford, who reported being duped by a duo of alleged conmen who sold them mandated federal and state labor informational posters that are given to businesses for free.
State and federal labor posters, outlining wage and other workplace laws, are required by law and vary by the type of business.  State Rep. Angel Arce, D-Hartford, said a number of small businesses contacted him after a pair of men from a company called “Compliance Services” approached them and said their lack of signage could cost them up to $3,000 in state and federal fines.
“I received a few calls from local business owners asking me if the state was running a campaign to have these posters in every store,” Arce said. “After further investigation, I found that a company is selling them posters that these businesses can get free of charge from the state.The ‘business representatives’ go door to door telling small business owners that they have to buy the poster in order to be state compliant, otherwise, they could be fined thousands of dollars for not having them posted. In turn, out of fear, they bought into it.”
Business owners, who often speak little English, were tricked into buying the free materials for upwards of $90, Arce said. Arce filed a complaint with the state consumer protection department, and attempts to contact company officials were unfruitful.  “You’d finally get through to someone, and they’d hang up,” he said.
Consumer protection representatives were unavailable for comment.  Labor department spokesperson Nancy Steffans said there is no set timeframe for a business to put up and maintain current labor posters, and that the recent complaints would be directed toward consumer protection officials.
“Agency staffing does not give us the ability to visit every work site to determine if posters are up to date,” she said. “However, under statute 31-69a the agency could fine the employer $300 for failure to post required CTDOL posters. In most cases, if we are made aware of posting issues, we will meet with the employer to educate them on the importance of posting the information for employees and we then provide the posters. Our objective in these types of situations is to educate rather than penalize.”
It isn’t the first time small state businesses have been approached by hucksters. Last year, Connecticut Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer said the agency received several complaints about someone from the company trying to sell posters in the Hamden area.
A similar scam, which may have been conducted by the same West Hartford based company, (CTLatinoNews was not able to confirm  at press time), but was documented by news site, involved Miami businesses in 2009. An online  search of the company reveals other shady practices involving victimized businesses catching the attention of authorities in Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Colorado, among others.
Jeremiah Wilson, a spokesperson for what found to be a similarly-named company, Compliance Services International, with offices in the United Kingdom and the U.S., said he had not heard of the scams. “I’m not even vaguely familiar with that topic,” he said. “We’ve been around for 26 years, and we have nothing to do with the labor industry.”