Caddies cleaned bathrooms, fetched drinks for no pay from New Jersey golf club, suit claims

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WEST ORANGE, N.J. — Caddies at Montclair Golf Club, which sits about 20 miles west of Manhattan, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the private club for allegedly violating state wage laws by paying them less than minimum wage and failing to pay overtime.

The suit was filed in state Superior Court in Newark on April 7 by the New York law firm Lipsky Lowe on behalf of about 250 caddies who have worked for the club since August 2019.

According to the complaint, caddies at the club are not paid any wages. Rather, golfers pay them a fee of $60 for each golf bag they carry, and generally tip them as well. The most recent raise to the bag fee was in 2016. Caddies can work one or two shifts in a typical day.

The Montclair Golf Club, a private club owned by its members, was founded in 1893 and has been designated a Distinguished Emerald Club of the World by the prestigious Board Room Magazine, according to its website. Its clubhouse on Mount Prospect Avenue faces Eagle Rock reservation and slopes down to three 9-hole courses, unusual for densely populated Essex County.

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The Montclair Golf Club in West Orange, New Jersey.

‘Drink runs’ for golfers

Members pay an initiation fee of $40,000. to $70,000. and yearly dues of $5,000. to $15,000, according to the complaint. Recently, the club launched an $18 million renovation plan to update its facilities and amenities.

The four caddies named in the complaint have all worked at the club for many years, and work there year-round, the complaint says. They live in Irvington, Orange, Linden and South Amboy/Plainsboro. During peak season, they work 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, the caddies say.

According to the complaint, caddies are under the strict control of a “caddy master” who determines who gets work, how much work they get, and requires them to do unpaid chores like setting up for tournaments, cleaning bathrooms and golf carts, and making “drink runs” to fetch beverages for golfers from the clubhouse bar.

If a caddie is late, or unavailable to work on busy holidays, he is “punished” and made to wait for work, sometimes all day, unpaid. Caddies are also expected to stick around, unpaid, in the caddy shack, even if there are no work prospects, the complaint says.

The workers allege the Montclair Golf Club is in violation of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.

The caddies are asking for all of their unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay, damages, and reimbursement of attorney’s fees.

Montclair Golf Club management did not return calls requesting comment.

Julia Martin is the 2021 recipient of the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists’ David Carr award for her coverage of Montclair for