In a settlement approved by a federal court today, custodial workers who worked for Integrity Facilities Management LLC, which contracted with Durham Public Schools, secured pay they are owed but never received.
The N.C. Justice Center, representing 149 plaintiffs in a case against DPS and a contractor, SSC Service Solutions, settled for $77,000, which will be divided among the workers based on how much they are owed.
The settlement comes after lawyers at the N.C. Justice Center discovered that Integrity Facilities Management, which filed for bankruptcy in 2014, underpaid workers and did not properly pay them for overtime hours
. Workers were also denied payment for their last two weeks of work, after Integrity went bankrupt.
According to the plaintiffs, Integrity was a subcontractor of SSC, which paid workers the wages that remained unpaid from those two weeks after the company’s bankruptcy. Upon release of payroll documents after the bankruptcy, an analysis revealed that those two weeks’ worth of wages were not the only back pay workers were owed.
“There was a time where [the workers] weren’t paid overtime at all, and once they did start paying, there were issues with the number of hours they paid,” says Carol Brooke, staff attorney for the N.C. Justice Center's Workers' Rights Project.
In the settlement, DPS and SSC argue that they didn’t violate labor laws, but they agreed to pay the settlement “to avoid the burden, expense, and the uncertainty of potential litigation.”
“Service Solutions was not an employer, for purposes of [labor laws], of the employees of Integrity,” says Kevin Dalton, an attorney representing SSC. “It had no—it's our position—legal liability to make any payments on behalf of the Integrity employees but decided to go ahead and do so so that they would be compensated and to put this matter behind us.”
(In a statement Friday afternoon, SSC told the INDY
: “SSC’s goal is to serve the students, faculty and staff in Durham Public Schools in a way that allows the highest level of resources and attention possible to be placed on educating students. We value our employees as well as those of our business partners for their hard work. Even though these were the employees of Integrity Facility Management, SSC wanted to make sure they were fairly compensated. We appreciate the help of the Durham Public Schools and The Justice Center in identifying the IFM employees and working with us to get this resolved.”)
Efforts to reach an Integrity representative were not immediately successful.
Brooke says she’s glad the workers would finally get what they deserve.
“Workers had waited a long time already for their money. Also, the settlement provides for full compensation for unpaid overtime and living-wage damages and some liquidated damages,” Brooke says. “They also got additional compensation through the bankruptcy process.”
Liliam Bustillo Cerrato, one of the plaintiffs, says she has worked at three different Durham schools, including Jordan High School, one of the schools under contract with Integrity.
“Many of us had worked for the company for a long time, and in the very end they didn’t pay us for the work we had done,” Cerrato says. “It is just that they have to pay us for the work that we did.”
As a mother of two, Cerrato sometimes found it difficult to pay for things for her daughters when she went unpaid.
Mike Lee, chairman of the DPS Board of Education, says he’s glad to see a resolution.
“I’m really glad that our facilities personnel are finally getting paid what they are due,” Lee says.
Still, the money won’t reach worker’s pockets until early September, approximately sixty days after the settlement, according to Brooke.