Workers Say Miss Ecuador Took Advantage

7/2/2013 6:23:00 AM, Nick Divito
     MANHATTAN (CN) - A former Miss Ecuador who became a high-end fashion designer in the United States runs a sweatshop, five employees claim in Federal Court.
     Lead plaintiff Maria Esther Oyola sued Gabriela Cadena, Gabriela Cadena Fashions, et al., alleging failure to pay wages and overtime and retaliation.
     Cadena, who comes from a wealthy South American family, was crowned Miss Ecuador in 2000. The plaintiffs also sued her father, Vidal Enrique Cadena Marin, who they say helped run the company even if he was not "formally documented" as a director.
     Plaintiffs include a dress sample maker, a fabric cutter, a pattern maker and a creative director. They claim the Cadenas' company is "very profitable."
     Cadena's garments are "publicly worn by celebrities at high-profile events such as the Screen Actors Guild awards, Miss Universe events and others, and Cadena garments are featured being worn by celebrities in popular publications such as People magazine and US Weekly," the workers say in the complaint.
     The workers claim they worked more than 40 hours a week without overtime wages, and that "there were weeks in which plaintiffs were not paid anything at all."
     Cadena failed to provide them with written notices of their rates of pay, how they'd be paid, when payday was, or even the official name, address and phone number of their employer, the lawsuit states.
     The plaintiffs claim Cadena also issued workers 1099 forms instead of W-2 forms, even though plaintiffs were employees.
     The plaintiffs say they were fired for complaining.
     They seek back pay, front pay and damages for emotional distress for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
     They are represented by Jonathan Meyers with Meyers Fried-Grodin.