Local News

Building contractor accused again of not paying workers

Posted January 5, 2009 11:27 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— As Raleigh-based USHomeComfort is under investigation for allegedly not paying its employees, the company's former president is accused of not paying workers at his other business.

At least 17 employees have accused USHomeComfort president Robert Wiggins, who also owns Apex-based Circuit Masters Electrical, of not paying them. The North Carolina Department of Labor and the N.C. State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors are investigating the wage claims against the building contractor.

A former Circuit Masters Electrical employee, who didn't want to be identified, said he is among those owed money.

"It has definitely been tough, just having to pay the bills on time. It has definitely been a hard priority," he said.

The former employee says he worked for Circuit Masters for about 45 days and is owed around $9,000 in back pay.

"I'm told consistently that, 'We're doing our best to get you guys caught up. We are going to give you partial payments here and there and full paychecks when we can,'" the former employee said.

Barry Johnston says he is also seeking unpaid wages from Wiggins.

"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.

WRAL went to Wiggins' Apex home Monday evening. Before ordering the news crew off his property, he said he did not have the money to pay his workers due to a lost contract.

"If you open a company, you start it up, and you are expected to pay your employees on time. You are expected to run your company efficiently in the way it is supposed to be run," the former Circuit Masters employee said.

Jim Taylor, director of the state's Wage and Hour Division, said an investigator will determine whether money is owed to the former employees 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.