For Immediate Release:
September 15, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
Albany, N.Y. – The U.S. Department of Labor just settled its third lawsuit with Steve Asmussen after the Thoroughbred trainer failed to pay 170 employees in New York for overtime—but PETA says experience shows that the fines are not likely to prevent Asmussen from continuing to cheat workers and violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. Today, the group fired off a letter to Barry Sample, chair of the New York State Gaming Commission, urging him to revoke Asmussen’s training license.
“For Asmussen, fines for cheating people and penalties for doping horses are simply the cost of doing business,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “Wage theft and encouraging employees to get fake Social Security cards are serious business, and PETA urges the gaming commission to revoke Asmussen’s license before he races at the expense of humans or horses again.”
The second lawsuit stemmed from an undercover investigation by PETA, which revealed that Asmussen’s assistant trainer Scott Blasi ordered undocumented workers to obtain fake identification and Social Security cards or quit, demanded long hours of workers for little pay, and forced undocumented laborers to sleep in barns and tack rooms. The investigation also exposed routine drugging of horses to make them run faster. The commission fined Asmussen $10,000 for the misuse of medication.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Sample follows.
September 15, 2021
Barry Sample, Chair
New York State Gaming Commission Board
Dear Mr. Sample:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and our more than 9 million members and supporters worldwide to request that you immediately revoke the training license of Steve Asmussen in New York State. Asmussen Racing Stable recently agreed to settle with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) over alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act for failing to pay overtime to 170 employees, including grooms, exercise riders, and hot walkers at New York State tracks between 2016 and 2020.
According to the proposed settlement documents, Asmussen, the owner of the stable, is required to pay $600,000 in back wages and penalties. This is the third lawsuit brought by the DOL against this Thoroughbred trainer since 2013.
A 2013 PETA investigation revealed that, in addition to other abuse, he had neglected to pay laborers their fair wages in New York. Our investigation revealed that Asmussen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi ordered undocumented workers to obtain fake identification and Social Security cards or quit, demanded long hours of workers without paying overtime, and forced undocumented laborers to sleep in barns and tack rooms. The DOL sued, and Asmussen settled and paid both fines and back wages. He was also sued by the New York Department of Labor in 2013 for underpaying his workers, some of whom had worked 60-hour weeks.
Asmussen may be the winningest Thoroughbred trainer in history, but he got there on the backs of exploited employees. Large fines have not deterred his illegal behavior, because they’re just a drop in the bucket compared to his earnings. It’s apparent that he dismisses them as the ordinary cost of doing business. Repeated violations and disregard of laws shouldn’t be tolerated, and trainers who steal from their employees shouldn’t be allowed to race in New York.
We strongly urge you to revoke Asmussen’s training license to protect those employed by Asmussen Racing Stable in New York State.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.
Senior Vice President
Equine Matters Department