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All I want for Christmas is justice

A look back at a daycare teacher’s inspiring holiday victory for unpaid wages and damages

January 28, 2019

The days started early and ended late. By 7:00 am, Teyave Hawkins-Cunningham was at the daycare where she worked, ready to welcome children into her classroom. Sometimes it was even earlier, 6:30, when she would fill in for a colleague. She routinely had to work through her break, even though she was still required to sign out. After a full day of teaching and supervising the kids, she’d clock out at 6:00 pm. But her day wasn’t over – she often spent 15 minutes cleaning the classroom, and even more when she had to get the room ready for licensing inspections.

The long days were to be expected. But what Ms. Hawkins-Cunningham didn’t expect was her employer’s failure to pay her in full. When she asked her managers why she did not receive a premium for the hours she worked over forty each week, for example, they told her that the daycare’s policy was not to pay overtime.

Frustrated, she went looking for a lawyer and found the Public Justice Center. When attempts to settle without litigation fell through, we filed suit, alleging that the daycare had failed to pay Ms. Hawkins-Cunningham for overtime and off-the-clock work. Ultimately, we settled for $9,000 in unpaid wages plus double damages, as well as attorney’s fees. Ms. Hawkins-Cunningham received her check on Christmas Eve, which brought a little extra cheer to her holidays and to ours.

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