Tag Archives: wage theft

wage theft case results in big settlement

Causey Wright is pleased to share the news of a major victory in a wage theft case, achieved by Terrell Marshall Law Group with the assistance of the Fair Work Center of Seattle, WA.

Workers Settle Lawsuit

Current and former workers at Pyramid Alehouse in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle are celebrating long overdue paychecks thanks to a big win in court. On July 30th, a judge with King County Superior Court finalized the $450,000 settlement of a class action wage-and-hour lawsuit that workers filed against Pyramid’s ownership group, Independent Brewers United, LLC. The average award for each worker in the settlement will be about $1,000, while the highest award in the class totals more than $9,800.

Why Workers Filed Suit for Wage Theft

In the lawsuit, workers alleged several forms of wage theft and abuse during the years of 2014 to 2018. The allegations included:

  • Failure to provide meal and rest breaks
  • Failure to record and pay workers for all work hours
  • Manipulation of timesheets to delete hours worked (“time shaving”)
  • Failure to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week
  • Failure to pay employees all service charges paid by customers
  • Failure to disclose to customers that not all banquet service charges collected went to the workers who provided services

In addition to paying their workers for the hours they worked, Pyramid will also be required to provide training to its workers so they know that whenever they are working, they must be on the clock.

Fair Work Center Played Role in Workers Obtaining Justice

“Class action employment cases like this help show that when workers stand together, they have the strength and the power to make serious changes in their work conditions,” said Rachel Lauter, Executive Director at Fair Work Center and Working Washington. “Fair Work Center is incredibly proud to play a role in bringing justice to workers at the Pyramid Alehouse in SoDo.”

In early 2018, workers from Pyramid Alehouse went to Fair Work Center seeking advice and support for discrepancies they were seeing in their paychecks. Fair Work Center partnered with the employment litigation firm of Terrell Marshal Law Group to bring the case on behalf of the workers, which was filed in April of 2018.

Food service workers are too often subjected to wage theft and other workplace abuses. With this settlement, we’re content the employer is being held accountable to the law and will have to change its practices. And we’re happy the workers will finally be getting paid the wages to which they’re entitled,” said Toby Marshall, a lawyer with Terrell Marshall Law Group.

Experiencing Wage Theft? Get Help!

Are you or someone you experiencing wage theft? Your time counts and you have the right to be paid for all of your work. Contact Fair Work Center if you rights are being violated at work.

The information above was provided in a press release issued by the Fair Work Center. For more information, contact the Fair Work Center at: (844) 485-1195.

Highway 99 Tunnel Subcontractor Owes Workers More Than $370,000 in Unpaid Wages

A company hired to dispose of dirt from the Highway 99 tunnel project through Seattle has been cited by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for underpaying workers by more than $370,000.

Glacier Northwest contracted with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the public project’s prime contractor, for an estimated $28 million. Glacier disposed of dirt and other materials excavated by Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine. Glacier and STP recently appealed the citation.

This was the only project that the Glacier Northwest disposal site was accepting dirt from, so L&I was able to identify the specific workers and hours worked. Because the tunnel is a public works project, those workers are entitled to prevailing wages, which they did not get.

“Many workers aren’t aware of the specific wages they must be paid when working on public projects like this one,” said Jim Christensen, L&I’s Prevailing Wage Program manager. “The law is clear in this case: The use of public funds means Glacier has the responsibility of paying proper prevailing wages.”

L&I enforces the state’s prevailing wage law, which protects workers by setting wages for specific work. The law helps ensure that contractors have a level playing field when bidding on public projects.

Some workers owed thousands
The L&I investigation found that Glacier Northwest owes 46 employees approximately $370,600 for their work spreading an estimated 2.2 million tons of dirt at the former Mats Mats Quarry near Port Ludlow. They were paid $27.69–$31.34 per hour but should have received $49.48 per hour running cranes, skid loaders, dump trucks, dozers, and excavators.

The amount owed to individual workers depends on how long they worked; it ranges from nearly $90 to more than $30,500.

Work at the disposal site involved setting and operating two floating cranes to offload hundreds of barges, all carrying dirt from the Highway 99 tunnel project. The dirt was then moved to the quarry using conveyors, trucks and other equipment. The contract precluded dirt from any other project to be dumped at the location.

In 2018, L&I industrial relations agents investigated and closed 300 cases involving the payment of prevailing wages and returned $1,461,452 to workers.

Photo by State Library of Queensland, Australia on Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Wage Theft Claim Results in Fines for Evasion of Workers’ Comp Insurance

Employer who tried to skip out on paying workers’ comp must repay L&I nearly $12K 

The co-owner of a Mill Creek, WA housecleaning business has been ordered to pay the state more than $11,700 for trying to evade workers’ comp insurance bills.

Blake Joseph Standley, of Bothell, pleaded guilty last Thursday to third-degree theft and attempted false reporting, both gross misdemeanor offenses.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent sentenced Standley to 364 days in jail, but suspended all but 15 days, which were converted to community service.  Standley will face additional penalties if he commits a new crime or fails to follow restitution requirements in the next two years.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case based on an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Charges are still pending against Monica Ann Covey-Standley, who was married to Blake at the time of the incidents, and ran their company’s daily operations. 

Paper trail, worker interviews

Standley filed reports to L&I in 2013 and 2014, claiming he had no employees in his housecleaning business, known as Kogaty Interiors.

However, an L&I investigation uncovered bank records showing the company was paying employees to clean houses during that time. Employees told investigators they worked for the company, and provided wage and tax statements, along with time sheets as proof.

According to charging papers, the couple should have paid nearly $12,000 in workers’ comp premiums.

Theft of wages

The theft charge stems from Standley’s failure to pay an employee for about two weeks’ worth of work cleaning houses in 2014. The worker told investigators that the couple ignored her emails and messages, and hung up whenever she called.

She filed a wage complaint to L&I, which determined the Standleys owed her about $1,000. Last week, Blake Standley paid the worker half of the wages, $515. Prosecutors will seek the remainder from Covey-Standley, who is scheduled to be tried on June 9.

Workers’ comp fraud raises costs

L&I administers the state workers’ comp system that provides medical and other services to help workers who are injured on the job heal and return to work. Employers and employees fund the system, and if some don’t pay, that raises rates for everyone else.

Report workers’ comp fraud at www.Lni.wa.gov/Fraud or call 1-888-811-5974.

 

Photo credit: janwillemsen via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA 

 

Ladies of Charity

Kim Bobo

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Mary Domer heads the local chapter of the Ladies of Charity and just chaired the national conference held in Milwaukee.  She recruited Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Workers Justice and author of Wage Theft in America to speak to the assembly. Kim’s presentation reminded us of the disparities of wealth in America and how that wage gap is increasing, in some measure because of wage theft.  Among the gems garnered from Kim’s presentation

  • If your employer tells you you are an independent contractor, you’re probably not.
  • Methods of “contingency employment” are on the increase including ever increasing temporary workers, seasonal workers and permanent “part time” workers.
  • Three-quarters of low wage workers don’t get overtime.  These include folks who can’t do all the work needed in 40 hours, but who would be fired if they didn’t perform all the work needed, daycare workers who have to stay off the clock and wait for parents to arrive, and “off the clock” work done in set up and clean up.  The most egregious examples were McDonalds workers told by their managers to clock out and sit and wait in the car until they were needed when more customers arrived.

Kim noted that many “tip” workers do not receive any of the tips, reminding us to either ask the question about whether the worker would receive a tip paid for by credit card or alternatively to simply pay in cash.  She noted an average of $2,600 lost average per year for low wage workers including janitors, drivers, landscapers, care workers.

Despite these negative trends, Kim suggested five ways in which we can all support low wage workers.

  1. Support campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
  2. Help with legislation and ordinances on paid sick days (40 million low wage workers have no paid sick days).
  3. Push Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other employers to increase their wages.  (She noted Wal-Mart does pay well in Europe so they have the capability when they are forced to do so.  Astoundingly, she noted six members of the Walton family possess a significant portion of the wealth in America.)
  4. Support legislation to provide a clear paystub to all employees.  (Many are being paid by debit cards where they have to actually pay money to their employers to get paid.)
  5. Honor employers who pay well through “a living wage certification program” in each of our communities.

 Through these methods and many more, we can all be men and Ladies of Charity.

 

Wage Theft Is Illegal And Immoral

Kim Bobo

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Wage theft is an issue we encounter all too frequently in our cases, particularly in situations with undocumented workers or others who may be paid “under the table.” They often have their wages under-reported to the Department of Labor and Industries, decreasing their compensation rate under the claim. It can be very difficult to prove the correct wage rate if insufficient documentation of payments exists.

Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of “Wage Theft in America,” recently spoke at Duke Divinity School and then at N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C. Ms. Bobo, who was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace Award in 2012 (other recipients are John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr.), has a simple reason for the work she does: as a person of faith, she recognizes injustice and seeks to correct it. Wage theft, which is defined as stealing from workers what they have rightfully earned, is not only illegal it is immoral. She is simply trying to get people to do something about it.

In September a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff.

At N.C Central law school, Bobo spoke to students about waiters not getting tips, even though the restaurant collected those tips when the bill was paid, and asked if anyone in the room had experienced that type of theft. Indeed, one student shared a story about working at an exclusive club in South Carolina where that practice was routine. After reporting the problem and getting nowhere, he finally gave up and quit. He is still bitter about it. In September, a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff. Small amounts can add up for the employer.

Bobo gave some action items to the audience that I wanted to share with you.  She said we need to:

  • start recognizing the seriousness of the problem;
  • start getting attention about the problem in order to fix it;
  • stay focused; and
  • if necessary, cross of the lines of our comfort zone.

For more information about Interfaith Worker Justice, go to: www.iwj.org/