Local News

Contractor's former employees file complaint over unpaid wages

Posted December 15, 2008 10:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2008 9:09 a.m. EST

— 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.