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Workers call their employers’ bluff: $80,000+ recovered in unpaid promises for wages

December 13, 2017

“Don’t worry. We’ll pay you next week. Just keep working.”

That was the response the construction workers got whenever they asked their bosses why they weren’t getting paid. But the promises went unfulfilled for weeks, and for some people, several months. Tired of being strung along, the workers decided to fight back.

When they told the Public Justice Center what was happening, a light went on. We’d been hearing similar stories about one of these employers, and this was a chance to hold him and the others accountable. In October 2016, the group of workers sued the construction subcontractor and its two owners. The lawsuit alleged that the employers misclassified the workers as independent contractors and failed to pay both regular and overtime wages.

At first, we didn’t hear back from the defendants, so we asked the court for an order of default. But after it came through, the employers resurfaced. We fought off their attempts to vacate the default, and the court moved ahead with a hearing. Testifying before the judge, the workers recounted that they’d repeatedly asked when they’d be paid and were told over and over to keep working because they’d be paid next week.

This month, the five workers won a hard-fought victory when the judge awarded them over $80,000 in unpaid wages and damages. They have waited more than a year for this result. The outcome is not only thrilling for the individual workers, but also puts their employers on notice that they cannot promise to pay workers and then stiff them without consequence.
 



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