Icon Cleaners: Amityville Horror Revisited

December 2nd, 2008 by

For many of us, Amityville NY brings to mind a book (and movie) called the Amityville Horror, which tell the story of an innocent couple moving into a house whose prior inhabitants had been murdered. The house is haunted by the ghosts of the deceased. If the story were to happen again, the house would surely be cleaned by Icon Cleaners.
New York’s Labor Department has determined that Icon Cleaners unlawfully deducted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the paychecks of their 170 cleaners. Icon called these people independent contractor “technicians” – all of whom wore Icon uniforms, worked under Icon control and used Icon equipment. Not only were they not independent, they labored under conditions of virtual servitude.
Here’s how Icon functioned: each employee was forced to pay a $500 security deposit upon being hired at the company, which could either be paid for up front or deducted from subsequent paychecks. (“Congratulations on your new job, sucker!”). Technicians often found their paychecks reduced for a variety of (illegal) reasons:
– In the event that a customer was not satisfied with the service provided by the company, or if the wrong services were rendered, a deduction was made from the employee’s paycheck.
– In instances where the company was doing a promotional campaign on discounted services, these discounts were taken out of employee paychecks.(!)
– If an employee indicated that he or she needed extra assistance on a particular project, in some instances Icon Cleaning would provide another worker for the project and that worker’s wages were deducted from the requesting employee’s paycheck.
– If a customer provided a check to the employee and it bounced, the employee was required make up for the lost revenues through payroll deductions.
Technicians worked up to 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week cleaning air ducts and carpets in private homes and businsses. After the illegal deductions had been made, some workers brought home less than $100 in a given week. They had been taken to the proverbial cleaners.
It’s not surprising to find that customer satisfaction mirrored the working conditions; you can read some disgruntled customer comments here.
There is no mention of worker immigration status in the press release from the Department of Labor, but I suspect that illegal workers would be more likely to tolerate these intolerable working conditions. It’s ironic, of course, that Icon is in the cleaning business. When it comes to fundamental employee rights, it doesn’t get any dirtier than this.