Indian workers allege ‘shocking violations’ in building Hindu temple in New Jersey

Lots of of marginalized staff from India have been recruited to construct an enormous Hindu temple in New Jersey the place they have been compelled to work lengthy hours for low pay in violation of US labor and immigration legal guidelines, based on lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

The grievance, filed in US District Court docket in Newark on behalf of greater than 200 Indian building staff on the temple, alleges “surprising violations of essentially the most fundamental legal guidelines relevant to staff on this nation, together with legal guidelines prohibiting compelled labor.”

The go well with, filed by 5 of the employees, accuses their employer, Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or BAPS, and associated entities of recruiting them in India, bringing them to the USA and forcing them to work on the temple for greater than 87 hours every week for $450 a month, or about $1.20 an hour.

New Jersey’s minimal wage is $12 an hour and US regulation requires the pay price for many hourly staff rise to time-and-a-half after they work greater than 40 hours every week.

Part of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is roofed in scaffolding in Robbinsville Township, N.J., Tuesday, Could 11, 2021. (AP Photograph/Seth Wenig)

The go well with says the employees have been stored beneath fixed watch and have been threatened with pay cuts, arrest and return to India in the event that they spoke to outsiders. On Tuesday, FBI brokers visited the sprawling ornate temple in rural Robbinsville, simply east of Trenton.

“We have been there on court-authorized regulation enforcement exercise,” Doreen Holder, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation discipline workplace in Newark, confirmed by phone. Holder declined to say what number of brokers have been on the premises or elaborate on their mission.

A spokesman for BAPS, which describes itself as a socio-spiritual Hindu group, issued a press release saying, “We have been first made conscious of the accusations this morning, we’re taking them very severely and are totally reviewing the problems raised.”

The go well with mentioned the BAPS entities personal the land the place the temple was constructed and organized for its building. The temple has been open for a number of years, however work on extending it’s ongoing.

The plaintiffs, who declare to have labored on the temple as stone cutters and different building staff way back to 2012, mentioned that in India, they belonged to the Scheduled Caste, previously thought-about “untouchables” and socially ostracized.

As soon as on their building jobs, the grievance mentioned “they have been compelled to reside and work in a fenced, guarded compound which they weren’t allowed to depart unaccompanied by overseers affiliated with (BAPS).”

The go well with, which additionally claims the employees have been falsely categorized as non secular staff and volunteers after they entered the nation, seeks “the total worth of their companies” in addition to unspecified damages and different compensation.

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