The Investigators: Queens employment agency accused of ripping off job-seekers

Sarah Wallace reports on an employment scam in which a woman from Queen has been taking money from clients and disappearing
A woman running an employment agency in Queens is accused of taking money from clients and then disappearing.

She's been caught before doing the same thing, which is why her previous business was shut down.

Employment agencies are required to have a license through the Office of Consumer Affairs. We discovered that one which had its license yanked two and a half years ago is back in business, and allegedly ripping off clients.

But catching up with the cagey owner was quite a challenge. These fly-by-night employment agencies prey on desperate people and are awfully good at hiding when angry clients start trying to get their money back. But hiding from us is a different story.

"That's the lady I gave my money to. Right there. That's her. Right there," said Annette Monroe.

We met Annette outside Arlene's Employment agency in Woodside, Queens trying to get her money back.

"You paid her $100," we asked. "Yes. I paid her $100. She took my $100 for a job. Never gave me a job," said Monroe.

And it's where we found Sonia Henry. "That's her," she said. ("The one who took your money') "Yeah." (And you paid her?) "$100," said Henry.

We heard story after story from frustrated job-seekers who couldn't reach Arlene Galowski. Neighbors told us she opens up only when she lures in new clients, taking $100 a pop from people who can least afford to lose it.

("You borrowed the $100".) "Yes, I did. I'm telling the truth. My phone's been cut off, everything. Because I came here. I gave her my money. She never gave me a job," said Henry.

After days of trying to track Galowski down, an Eyewitness News producer found her in her open office.

"Are you running an employment agency here?", we asked. "I'm not, but the owner is," said Galowski.

No wonder she didn't want to admit who she is. Galowski is not supposed to be running an employment agency. She had her license revoked in November of 2011.

("And you're not Arlene Galowski?", we asked) "No, Ma'am I'm not." ("Where is she?") "She's away." ("She's away?") "Right, get that camera away. It's really too much," she said.

A short time later, Galowski bolted out without shuttering her gate. She came back when she thought the coast was clear, having no idea I was waiting around the corner.
She denied the office was open.

"We'd like to talk to you about why you're still running an employment agency," we said. "I'm not. This office is closed," Galowski said. "We talked to someone who recently went in there and you promised her a job," we said. "That's not true," she responded.

"She told us that she's not open. It's closed. She's lying," said Monroe.

("You're not running an employment agency. You're not trying to place clients?"), we said. "No comment." said Galowski.

"Come on," we said. "We've talked to people who say they've given you money and tried to call and you don't answer. What do you have to say to that? You're not supposed to be running a place...your license has been revoked. What do you have to say about that? Why are you hiding from us. Why are you hiding from your clients?"

She hurried into her car and slammed the door without a response.

Employment agencies are not supposed to charge you up front or guarantee a job.

The Department of Consumer Affairs encourages New Yorkers to file a complaint if they have a problem with an employment agency by calling 311 or online at http://nyc.gov/consumers

EMPLOYMENT AGENCY TIPS

Only use a licensed employment agency. Employment agencies operating within New York City must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs. Check to see whether an employment agency is licensed by visiting nyc.gov/consumers and clicking on "Instant License Check" or calling 311.

Avoid employment agencies that "guarantee" jobs. By law, employment agencies cannot guarantee they will find you a job. In addition, employment agencies cannot refer you to a job that pays less than minimum wage or does not pay overtime.

Know your fee and refund rights. You cannot be charged a fee unless the employment agency places you in a job. You can only be charged an advance fee or deposit if you are seeking the following types of work: domestic worker, household worker, manual worker, agricultural worker, skilled industrial worker or mechanic. The advance fee or deposit must go toward the fee the employment agency charges for placing you in a job. If the agency does charge a fee, it must refund that fee at any time if you choose to end your contract before the agency has found you a job or if the agency never finds you a job. Employment agencies may also charge a placement fee after finding you a job. However, the placement fee cannot exceed the maximum amount allowed by law. This maximum varies depending on the type of employment and the salary amount.

Know your wage rights. Agencies may refer you only to jobs that are current and available and pay at least the minimum wage as set by New York State and federal law. Agencies must obtain job openings directly from the businesses seeking to hire employees.

Know your contract rights. Employment agencies must give you a contract and show you the entire contract before you sign it. You must be given a copy of any contract you sign. Read the contract carefully to make sure that what you are agreeing to in writing is the same as the deal you accepted verbally. Your contract should have the name, address and license number of the agency, the type of work you'll be performing, the amount of any fee you pay, and the payment schedule for your fee. Before signing the contract, get the agency to answer all of your questions, in writing. Contracts negotiated in Spanish must also be written in Spanish. Fees in the contract cannot exceed the fees that are legally permitted. You must also be given a receipt each time you make a payment or deposit. Keep all copies in a safe place.








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