Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2007

    SC: Hispanic workers get help to recover owed wages

    Hispanic workers get help to recover owed wages

    Robbie Nichols flips to the back of a folder to reveal a stack of pay stubs -- slips of paper that were folded, then crinkled as if they'd been shoved in a pocket.

    The stubs, representing several weeks' of work by her Hispanic client, would be the key to the case. They showed 138 hours worked in two weeks for a local chain restaurant without overtime being paid.

    Hispanic leaders say immigrants have long faced problems of being cheated by employers on payday. For a worker who might have unsteady English skills or shaky documentation status, the prospect of bringing legal action or formal complaints against those employers has been daunting.

    "What (employers) are doing to their employees is so outrageous that there's no gray," said Nichols,

    fingering through the stack of computer-printed stubs. "It's black and white."

    Nichols, who has 14 years of experience with local employment-law cases, is donating her time to help some of these workers bring their employers to trial and force them to pay.

    Through the Hilton Head Island-based Latin American Council of South Carolina, the group that serves as a clearinghouse for information and assistance for local immigrants, Nichols has won two cases against employers. Six more are in the works.

    Nichols recently represented Celso Montes of Hilton Head. After a quick court trial in Bluffton magistrate's court, Montes was awarded the $1,000 that never showed up on his last two paychecks from the landscaping company he worked for, plus another $2,000 in damages.

    Most of Nichols' cases involve bad checks, short-changed paychecks, unpaid overtime or promises of pay that never materialize. The employers are usually landscaping, construction, cleaning or hospitality businesses.

    As the file Nichols flipped through demonstrated, many Hispanic workers hold on to pay stubs for long periods, which makes their cases easier to bring to trial, she said.

    "In most cases, it's pretty cut and dry," she said.

    Council executive director Luis Bell said some employers don't fear reprisal from immigrant workers because they think they either aren't in the country legally or aren't familiar with the legal system. But just because they may not be American citizens doesn't mean they can get treated poorly by the people who hire them, he said.

    "Say what you will about documentation," said Nichols, who doesn't ask about people's documentation status before helping them. "These people have a right to be paid."

    Saying you don't have to pay the people you hired because they are illegal immigrants is a pretty silly argument to make in court, she said.


    In Montes' case, his employer, Okatie-based Landshaper, claimed his pay was withheld due to missing and damaged equipment, according to court documents. The documents included an agreement written in English and Spanish and signed by Montes saying any damage to equipment would be deducted from his paycheck.

    The company also claimed he had harassed and physically attacked employees. He was eventually terminated, though he was later rehired.

    "Celso Montes' time with Landshaper was troubled at best," the company wrote in a February letter to the state Department of Labor.

    But Magistrate Peter Lamb ruled at a hearing June 19 that not only did Montes deserve the $1,000 in pay he claimed, the company should triple the amount, plus pay attorney and court fees.

    "Clearly Ms. Nichols has proven the two cases that have come before me beyond the preponderance of the evidence," Lamb said in an interview.

    Jason Ward, the lawyer representing Landshaper, declined to comment for this story.

    The other case was brought in April on behalf of four workers for Country Cleaners of Hilton Head. The company never filed a response in the court, and Lamb again awarded the workers three times their missing wages. With court costs and attorney fees, the company has been ordered to pay $17,270.

    The company's attorney, Nick Felix, did not return a phone message last week and several attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful.


    Nichols, who is donating her attorney fees to the Latin American Council, usually has about three or four people come by when she holds informal counseling sessions Fridays at the council. Ultimately, Nichols and the Latin American Council want employers to know they can't get away with this sort of behavior any more.

    The goal also is to make people with wage problems less frightened to take action. The South Carolina Department of Labor receives only about two or three calls a year from Hispanic workers claiming wage problems, and some of those callers never follow up with formal complaints, spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka said.

    If a complaint is filed under the Payment of Wages Act, an investigator will request records from the employer. If violations are found, a $100 citation can be issued for failure to pay wages. The state issued 377 citations between July 2006 and June 2007, Kudelka said.

    Bell, the council director, said he wants to "start a precedent to let people know that they are not by themselves and they have some rights.

    "If word gets out, we can change behavior." ... 1815c.html

  2. #2
    Senior Member WhatMattersMost's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Illegal Sanctuary, Illinois
    Say what you will about documentation," said Nichols, who doesn't ask about people's documentation status before helping them. "These people have a right to be paid."

    Saying you don't have to pay the people you hired because they are illegal immigrants is a pretty silly argument to make in court, she said.
    I am torn in this instance. While it feels my heart with joy that these corrupt employers who don't care about illegal status will hire/cheat anyone they can get beat at their own game, they should be fined on top of giving up the back pay.

    I also think if the claimants are here illegally they should be paid back wages and promptly deported thereafter. It's amazing how many attorneys jump at the chance to provide "justice" to potential illegal aliens, while Americans who are not wealthy rarely if ever receive justice without paying hefty retainer and legal fees.
    It's Time to Rescind the 14th Amendment

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts