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Contractor's former employees file complaint over unpaid wages

Posted December 15, 2008
Updated December 16, 2008

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— In complaints filed with the North Carolina Department of Labor, 17 employees of Raleigh-based USHomeComfort say the company owes them combined back wages of more than $25,000.

Barry Johnston is among those trying to collect from the building contractor. The former construction manager says the company owes him $10,000.

"The worst part is, you work for it and then you don't get it,” Johnston said.

Johnston says he worked for USHomeComfort for seven weeks without pay.

"They kept telling me, 'We are going to pay you. We are going to get the money. It won't be a problem,'” Johnston said.

However, USHomeComfort, 8541-A Glenwood Ave., unexpectedly closed about two weeks ago. The company's Web site says it is "currently down for maintenance."

Johnston and 16 other former employees have since filed complaints with the state about unpaid wages.

David Moore says he is owed more than $7,000, but did receive a partial payment.

"That was after making a phone call to him (company's CEO) about when I could bring my children to his home because I can't feed them,” Moore said.

The N.C. State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors is investigating USHomeComfort president Robert Wiggins for unpaid wage claims, WRAL News confirmed.

"Due to the loss of a major contract by our masonry division and also that many clients are not paying our company for work completed, we have fallen behind on our ability to pay our bills and employees," USHomeComfort CEO Pat Martin said in a statement issued Monday evening.

Johnston said he will continue to fight for his money. He was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy while searching for a new job.

"I don't wish it on anybody. It's very difficult,” he said.

Johnston also said his health insurance with USHomeComfort will be canceled at the end of the month.

Jim Taylor, director of the state's Wage and Hour Division, said an investigator will determine whether money is owed to the former employees of USHomeComfort and if there will be an administrative determination. If so, the company would be ordered to pay the employees, but the state agency does not have the power to force payment.

If the state determines money is owed and the employees don't get paid, the workers or the state can pursue the case in court. The company can also appeal the decision.

The investigation is expected to take about a month.

13 Comments

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  • billy Dec 16, 2008

    This person is stealing from the workers if he doesn't pay up.
    Charge him with theft.
    Lock him up.
    Make his bond higher than what he owes the workers.
    Bet he pays up then.

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    TREEBEE123

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TRIKLE DOWN EOCNOMONICS AT LEAST NOT WHEN IT COME TO ANYONE MAKING LESS THAN 100,000.0 TO 250,000.00 PER YEAR IT IS ONLY TRIKLE UP

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    Has the N.C.D.O.T. EVER STRAIGHTENED OUT ITS PAYROLL SYSTEM THAT WAS AT ONE TIME SCREWING OVER IT'S EMPLOYEE'S PAYROLL BY NOT ALLOWING FOR NCDOT EMPLOYEES TO BE PROPERLY PAID FOR THEIR OVERTIME HOURS THAT THE MADE AN WERENT GETTING PAID FOR

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    Just maybe that it is time for the people of north carolina to consider replacing the current head of the north carolina department of labor cherie berry.

  • Historian snuck back in Dec 16, 2008

    Three things we always paid first in this order:

    1) Wages

    2) All taxes and employee with holding

    3) Workmen's Compensation insurance

    A company's backbone is the service of it's employee's, they should always be first. I couldn't sleep at night if I thought for one minute that I was the cause of one of my employee's not being able to care for themselves or their families.

    When we had to close the doors of our business we saw it coming and everybody got paid including our creditors. Employees were paid first as usual. I was able to work out some deals with my creditors, most of them were happy to discount my account when I approached them about our dilemma. I think that most business owners that can't make payroll have spent that money for their own personal benefit. If an employee steals from their employer they are charged with embezzlement, then if a business owner steals an employee's wages then they should be treated likewise.

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    in all probablity this company will be allowed to claim banckrupcy an then reoriginize under another company name an then these employee will never be allowed to get their pay that is owed to them

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    this is just another prime example of the power that the business community has recently during this bush adminstration been allowed to have over the people an the agency's within north carolina state government an in my personnal estimatetion it is totally wrong that these worjers are being screwed over like this

  • StateMom Dec 16, 2008

    Some one told me the owner lives in Old Raleigh. He can sell his million dollar house in the gated community and pay his workers!!!!

  • whatelseisnew Dec 16, 2008

    Hopefully this business will be able to collect what it is owed so they can then pay these people.

  • pbjbeach Dec 16, 2008

    i personnaly do not understand why the ncdol cant intervene on the behalf of these workers an demand that this company pay it's employees for their hours worked. the workers are like everyone else these days an i feel sure that they are in deep need of their pay especialy the fellow that is fighting a battle with cancer an about to lose his health care benefits from this company . if the ncdol cant compel this company to take actions on the behalf of these employees what good does it do for the taxpayers to be paying the salary's of these state workers for the ncdol if that cant or wont take action to protect these workers in this sitution thank you

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