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At Trump golf course, undocumented employees said they were sometimes told to work extra hours without pay

“It was that way with all the managers: Many of them told us, ‘Just clock out and then stay and do the side work,’ ” Jose Gabriel Juarez, a former head waiter of the Grille Room at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester, said of the overtime he worked without pay. (Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post)

HILLSDALE, N.Y. — His bosses at the Trump country club called it “side work.”

On some nights, after the club’s Grille Room closed, head waiter Jose Gabriel Juarez — an undocumented immigrant from Mexico — was told to clock out. He pressed his index finger onto a scanner and typed his personal code, 436.

But he didn’t go home.

Instead — on orders from his bosses, Juarez said — he would stay on, sometimes past midnight. He vacuumed carpets, polished silverware and helped get the restaurant at Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briar­cliff Manor, N.Y., ready for breakfast the next day.

All off the clock. Without being paid.

“It was that way with all the managers: Many of them told us, ‘Just clock out and then stay and do the side work,’ ” said Juarez, who spent a decade at the golf club, before leaving in May 2018. “There was a lot of side work.”

Allegations that workers were routinely shortchanged on their pay at President Trump’s suburban country club are now the subject of an inquiry by the New York attorney general, whose investigators have interviewed more than two dozen former employees.

Trump’s golf course employed undocumented workers — and then fired them amid showdown over border wall

The inquiry could raise awkward political questions for Trump, who has made stopping illegal immigration a centerpiece of his presidency and his reelection campaign but faces allegations that his business benefited from low-paid undocumented workers.

In interviews, six former Trump workers told The Washington Post that they felt systematically cheated because they were undocumented. Some told The Post about being denied promotions, vacation days and health insurance, which were offered to legal employees. The same pattern of unpaid labor was also described by a former manager.

Others recounted practices that could violate labor laws. Two told The Post that they had been required to perform unpaid side work. Two others said managers made them work 60-hour weeks without paying them overtime.

A spokesman for the New York attorney general’s office confirmed that it had received complaints from workers about conditions at the club but declined to comment further.

The Trump Organization has denied the allegations, and workers who spoke to The Post did not keep paper records of the extra hours they said they worked.

For years, Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J. relied on undocumented workers from Costa Rica. These are their stories. (Video: Dalton Bennett, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post, Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

But Juarez was among nearly 30 former employees at Trump’s golf courses in New York who met with prosecutors in February. They handed over pay stubs and W-2 forms and answered questions about their salaries, hours, tips and lack of benefits in one-on-one interviews over many hours, according to several workers. Some have follow-up meetings scheduled in coming weeks.

“They were focused on the payments,” Gabriel Sedano, who worked in maintenance at the club for 14 years, said of the prosecutors. “The days they paid us. The extra hours they didn’t pay us. The tips.”

Many who met with investigators were among those who were fired as part of a companywide purge of unauthorized workers earlier this year.

In a statement, the Trump Organization called the former workers’ accounts “nonsense.”

“The Trump Organization has extensive policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with all wage and hour laws,” spokeswoman Kimberly Benza said, after The Post sent a brief description of the employees’ accounts. “This story is total nonsense and nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations from illegal immigrants who unlawfully submitted fake identification in an effort to obtain employment.”

‘My whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years

In January, the company said it would start using E-Verify, a federal program that allows employers to check whether new hires are legally eligible to work in the United States.

The inquiry adds to the list of inquiries by New York state investigators and Democrats in Congress scrutinizing aspects of Trump’s life, including the business on which he built his fame and fortune.

Trump has decried unauthorized immigrants as a threat to the country’s safety and social fabric. He also has blamed undocumented workers for driving down wages and taking jobs that American citizens could perform.

But over the years, his company has routinely relied on that same low-wage, illegal labor, and his company has not explained how some employees kept their jobs for years despite lacking proper papers. Since December, The Post has spoken with 36 such people, who worked at four Trump golf courses and country clubs as well as a personal hunting lodge that his two adult sons own in Upstate New York.

Trump still owns his businesses, but he has handed over day-to-day control to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. The company has said it did not know it employed workers who lacked legal status until this year, when an internal audit discovered that many had presented fraudulent papers.

One former manager from the Westchester club, who said he thought the undocumented workers at the club were exploited, described an environment where — in managers’ meetings — it was clear that supervisors not only knew these workers lacked authentic documents but used that information to meet the company’s cost-cutting goals.

The former manager said that “The City” — the club’s word for bosses at Trump Tower in Manhattan — was constantly demanding a reduction in overtime costs.

The solution, going back a decade at least, the former manager said, was to pressure the undocumented workers.

“You want to be here? Don’t clock in for overtime,” the former manager said, paraphrasing the message to these workers. “Clock out, and work off the clock.”

“There was a conscious effort to pay less wages, because they knew about the lack of documents,” said the former manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal company policy. “You know, where are they going to go?”

The former manager said that this period included a time when Dan Scavino — now the White House director of social media — was general manager of the Westchester club.

When The Post asked Scavino whether he had known about these practices, he said he was unaware of any violations and called the questions an “attempt to attack the President through me, one of his senior staff.”

“To my knowledge, Trump National is in compliance with the relevant state and federal labor laws, and during my employment, which was SIX YEARS ago, I was personally unaware of any violations of those laws,” Scavino said in a written statement issued through the White House press office. “If such violations occurred and I had been aware, I would have immediately addressed it, and stopped them.”

The president’s sons entrusted their private hunting retreat to a caretaker. He was working in the country illegally.

Trump’s Westchester club is tucked in the woods in the wealthy enclave of Briarcliff Manor, about an hour north of Manhattan along the Hudson River. The club drew on a community of immigrants from Ecuador and Mexico living in nearby Ossining to staff many manual-labor jobs.

Former workers say getting hired was easy. Applicants could purchase fake green cards and Social Security numbers along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens that their bosses would place on file and generally not mention again. Nearly all employees interviewed say they are certain that their bosses knew their papers were fraudulent but hired them anyway.

On the job, however, things became more difficult. Employees without legal status often worked at the club for years on hourly wages that they said barely budged upward. They felt blocked from promotion opportunities, they said, and generally received no health insurance, retirement benefits or vacation days. Many said the company shaved hours off their paychecks.

Juan Pablo Morejon, a dishwasher from Cuenca, Ecuador, said he often worked into the early-morning hours cleaning up after banquets and parties but didn’t get paid for overtime. 

“I had to punch out and keep working,” he said. “When you left, they paid you eight hours, even if you worked 12 or 13 hours.”

Requiring employees to work unpaid hours is prohibited by New York labor law, lawyers practicing in the state said.

“Requiring employees to clock out and continue working is classic wage theft. You have to pay employees for all hours worked,” said Louis Pechman, a lawyer in Manhattan who said he has handled more than 200 cases involving allegations of wage theft. “Undocumented workers have the same rights as documented workers. It makes no difference.”

Morejon, who was hired at the club in 2012, said he regularly complained to superiors about missing hours and overtime on his paychecks. The issue came up again when he was fired last year. A supervisor had discovered that Morejon was using the same green card number as his nephew.  

“He told me to go back to Queens and get a new number, apply again, and you can continue working,” he said, echoing the experience of another former worker at the course who told The Post that he, too, was told to get new papers.

Morejon quit instead. “They would have eventually fired me anyway, like the others,” he said.

Morejon, who spoke to prosecutors in February, said that the company owed him for his last 15 days of work but that he never received a final paycheck.

The supervisor could not be reached to comment. 

Two of Morejon’s dishwashing colleagues, Jose Blandon, 55, and his son, Wiston Blandon, 35, said they felt similarly shortchanged by the Trump Organization. The pair, from Nicaragua, got hired in 2016 after hearing from a friend “that they were letting people work there without papers, and that they needed dishwashers,” Jose Blandon said. 

Trump was campaigning for president at the time, and the two also were eager to work for a famous and powerful boss.

The enthusiasm quickly subsided. Jose Blandon said he felt overwhelmed by the demands of the job, working long hours and juggling dishwashing duties in the banquet kitchen and the Grille Room for club members.

On a few occasions, he said, he and his son would work about 60 hours one week, and their boss would have them work 20 the next. The paycheck cycle would average out to two 40-hour workweeks with no overtime. Jose Blandon complained about such practices but said he was told, “That’s why they hired you, to work.” 

“This bothered me a lot,” he said. “I felt this was labor abuse.” 

This practice — called “averaging hours” — is also prohibited by New York law, legal experts said.

“Can they be averaged? Absolutely not. Overtime is measured in terms of the week itself,” said James J. Brudney, a professor of employment law at Fordham University in New York. “If what they’re trying to say is that they’ll average overtime over a two-week period, they can’t do that.”

Some former Westchester managers disputed that the company exploited staff members or that it knew they did not have legal status.

“Anybody that applied and went through the application process was told you have to have valid ID, and everybody that applied provided that,” said one former manager involved in hiring who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policies. “This isn’t a company that turns around and says, ‘You, you and you — come on board.’ Everything was done by government standards.”

The former manager added that salaried workers were offered a benefits package including health insurance, two weeks’ vacation after one year of employment, 401(k) contributions and sick days. All employees were paid more than minimum wage and were offered benefits if they worked enough hours to qualify for them, the former manager said.

“Several employees were there for several, several years,” the former manager said. “It’s pretty simple. Nobody goes to a job that they hate or that they’re treated badly at. You don’t work at a company for that long if it’s a bad company.” 

Murat Nalcioglu, food and beverage director in the Grille Room in 2016, also disputed that any employees were mistreated.

“It was a good work environment,” Nalcioglu said. “The Hispanics were treated as good as anybody else. They were obviously the hardest workers there. They were the majority of the team.”

As head waiter for a decade in the clubhouse restaurant, Juarez, who went by “Gabbie,” was well-known by members, including the Trumps. 

Before he became president, Trump often golfed on Sundays in Westchester then ate lunch at a circular corner table — Table 5 — with a view of a TV screen. 

Juarez mastered Trump’s finicky preferences. He knew to pour Trump’s Diet Coke from particular miniature glass bottles into a plastic cup, never letting Trump see anyone touch the straw.

In the clubhouse computer, Trump automatically got a hefty discount, Juarez recalled: at least half off everything he ordered. He could never be brought a bill.

“He would fire me for that,” Juarez said.

Juarez was 16 years old in 2001 when his sister persuaded him to leave their village at the base of a volcano outside Mexico City and join their father in New York. He started working as a busboy at an Italian restaurant in Queens and has been employed at more than half a dozen eateries since, he said, from fine-dining restaurants to pizza joints. 

In 2008, his brother was working in the clubhouse restaurant of Trump’s Westchester club and recommended Juarez for the position of head waiter. He was hired using falsified documents he bought in Queens. 

The Grille Room was different from the other restaurants Juarez knew. He was paid hourly — $15 an hour when he started and $18 per hour when he left a decade later — but generally did not receive tips.

When the golf course closed for winter, Juarez was part of a skeleton staff that stayed on, organizing storage rooms and helping with painting and repairs. There were also odd jobs. He said he moved furniture in and out of apartments in Ossining that the Trump Organization rented for foreign workers on temporary visas who would fly in for the summer season.

Despite his decade of service and full-time work year-round, Juarez said he was not offered retirement, vacation or health insurance packages that other employees received. Every paycheck, taxes for Social Security and Medicare would be withheld — benefits he will never receive.

Over his 10 years at the club, he earned an average of $31,600 per year and paid an average of $5,600 of that in federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, according to W-2 forms from the Trump Organization reviewed by The Post.

But those tax documents do not tell the whole story, he said.

Whenever Juarez clocked in and out at the fingerprint scanner, he kept a scrap of paper in his wallet to write down his hours as a way to double-check the computer.

“Every check, they were always short on the hours,” he said. “Always missing two hours, or four hours.”

He said he didn’t save the scraps of paper.

Last spring, Juarez quit to accept a new job, fearful that Trump would eventually fire all the employees with false papers.

In his time at the club, he enjoyed meeting many of the members, he said, and has some fond memories of the Trump family. But the working conditions weren’t fair, he said, and he thought he knew why.

“They treated us that way” because they were undocumented, he said. “They thought, ‘Oh, they’re not going to do anything about it.’ ”