NEW HAVEN (CN) – Through physical and sexual threats, the owners and operators of Rocco’s Bakery forced immigrant adults and children to work for long hours for years at less than minimum wage, and prohibited the children from attending school, until federal agents rescued them, six plaintiffs claim in Federal Court.
The plaintiffs are Ecuadoran, speak little English and have little education; two were put to work as children, at ages 13 and 14, the complaint states. They regularly worked more than 12 hours a day, without breaks, and without overtime pay the complaint states. The father began working for the defendants 14 years ago.
Defendants are Antonio, Anna, Giovanni and Ferdinando DiBenedetto. Antonio owns the factory and bakery aka Rocco’s Pastry Shop, in New Haven and Meriden; Anna, his wife, is a manager; their children, Giovanni and Ferdinando, are supervisors, the complaint states.
The plaintiff family says they were “subjected to sexual assault as a condition of their continued employment and housing.”
They say the DiBenedettos housed them next to the bakery, prohibited them from having guests or even opening their doors to anyone, prohibited them from driving, and said they would be fired and deported if they complained.
They say that all the male DiBenedettos sexually pawed the women, inside and outside their clothing, while they worked.
They claim Antonio DiBenedetto assaulted and tried to sexually assault one plaintiff at work, and that he “forced female employees to watch him while he removed his clothes and walked around naked in front of them.”
They claim Ferdinando DiBenedetto used drugs at work and that while he was drugged up, “on at least once occasion, he threw a knife in the vicinity of female plaintiffs.”
The plaintiffs say they finally called Immigrations Customs and Enforcement to report their bosses’ threats, and ICE agents rescued them from their apartment in the middle of the night and took them to an undisclosed place, where they remain.
They demand damages for human trafficking, assault, labor violations, emotional distress and other charges. They are represented by Jennifer Mellon with New Haven Legal Assistance.