Uncovering Wage Theft
We work hard to support our families, and we want to get the money we’ve earned. Millions of workers nationwide don’t get the pay they are promised.
We started looking into this after the Kentucky Labor Cabinet confirmed it was investigating wage theft claims at Fleming Furniture in Paducah.
Eighty thousand pounds in tow, Calvin Rideout transports freight through Kentucky to support his family.
"It’s stressful, you know, making sure everything goes right," Rideout said.
It’s even more stressful when you don’t receive a paycheck for doing the job and you have bills to pay.
"That’s how I live is paycheck to paycheck. It’s rough whenever you’re expecting a pay check and you don’t get it," Rideout said.
In October, Rideout left a job at the trucking company, S.R. Payne and Son in Waverly, Kentucky. Weeks went by ,and he never received his last two weeks’ pay: almost $2,000.
"I do work hard for my money, and I expect get it. And I expect to get it when I’m supposed to get it," Rideout said.
Rideout’s is one of 12,000 cases of wage theft the Kentucky Labor Cabinet resolves in an average year. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $10 million last year to give to Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee wage theft victims.
"It can come in a lot of forms. It can come in failing to pay minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, not paying the agreed upon," said Kentucky Equal Justice Center Employment Law Attorney McKenzie Cantrell.
Cantrell spends time at the capitol advocating for victims across the state and representing them in court.
"Wage theft is usually not affecting one worker. It’s usually affecting everyone in the work place," she said.
In November, the labor cabinet confirmed it was investigating complaints by Fleming Furniture store employees.
Employees received a letter dated Nov. 4 informing them they would no longer receive their health care coverage. A spokesperson for the employees’ group insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross, says it’s contract with Fleming Furniture had been terminated three months earlier on Aug. 1, because the company wasn’t making payments. Multiple employees say months later money for that insurance coverage was still coming out of their paychecks.
One employees paycheck from October shows more than $51 for the group insurance came out of their pay that month alone, along with other supplemental insurance that employees say they no longer had.
The store’s owner, Danny Kelley, is charged with 10 felony counts of theft stemming from separate complaints from customers who never received furniture. His attorney, Mark Byrant, says Kelley sent $12,000 to the labor cabinet last week for money owed to employees.
"We didn’t want to dispute anything. We just want to pay them," Bryant said during an interview earlier this week.
"Anything that’s hard on our economy is going to be hard on taxpayers, because you’re having other people bear the burden of social services," Cantrell said.
If you feel you’re a victim of wage theft, Cantrell advises you to start by reaching out to your state’s labor department, and then talk to an attorney about what’s happening in your workplace.
Truck driver Calvin Rideout reported his case and got his money a few weeks later. The labor cabinet would not comment on whether Kelley’s check covers all the health insurance claims made by employees.
The U.S. Department of Labor won’t confirm or deny it’s investigating this store. The Kentucky Equal Justice center says if you want to prevent this from happening to you, know your employer, and research them before you take the job. Keep your own records of how many hours you have worked, and compare them to your paychecks.
If you think you are a victim of wage theft here are some resources you can reach out to for help:
- Kentucky Labor Cabinet
- Kentucky Equal Justice Center
- Illinois Department of Labor
- U.S. Department of Labor
- Wage Advocates