Utica, N.Y. - Workers at the Emmaus House Women's Homeless Shelter in Utica are awaiting word from the New York State Department of Labor on whether they will be receiving back pay for hours they worked over a period of years that they believe they were paid for incorrectly.
Angela Hoffman, a resident supervisor and cook at Emmaus House, is one of those workers waiting to hear.
She and another worker, who prefers not to be identified, filed a complaint with the New York State Labor Department in November of 2016.
Hoffman says she and her coworker are still waiting to hear the outcome of the case and whether they will receive back pay.
Here's the issue. Hoffman says she and others who have worked the overnight shift for years, did so working from 4:00 P.M. in the afternoon until 9:00 A.M. the next morning, a 17 hour work day, but they were only getting paid for 9 hours plus a $30 stipend.
During those 17 hour shifts, she says workers have only been paid their normal hourly wage from 4:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. and then from 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M., but for the hours of 11:00 P.M. until 7:00 A.M. workers were paid a stipend for a total of $30.00, which averages out to $3.75 per hour for those eight hours.
Hoffman says she never questioned this until last year when she says she and others from Emmaus House went to a conference in Syracuse where workers from other homeless shelters across the region attended. That's where she says she found out from the workers from other areas that their shelters usually close at 11:00 P.M. because of pay issues.
Hoffman says she then went to her supervisors to find out why she wasn't getting paid an hourly wage for those hours, "When I went to my boss she said 'because I'm sleeping', and I didn't like that answer so I went to the corporation itself."
Shortly after she went to the board which oversees the not for profit shelter, she says a note was included with everyone's pay stub in April stating that workers who worked the overnight shift would be paid $10.00 and hour starting May 1st.
Hoffman says those who work overnight are there to make sure everyone is safe and that nothing bad is going overnight, for example drug activity. She says the overnight workers do have their own room to sleep, but they can often be awakened to help a resident or take calls or even answer the door if a woman in need comes knocking.
Hoffman says she contacted the State Department of Labor Investigator assigned to her case a week ago and was told that even after a year, the case is still under investigation.
News Channel 2 received a statement from Cullen Burnell, New York State Labor Dept. Acting Communications Director. Burnell said, "The case you asked about is still under investigation and as such I can't offer any further comment at this time."
We also spoke to John Crossley, Vice President of the St. Margaret's Corporation of Utica which oversees the Emmaus House. Cossley says he believes the Emmaus House has done nothing wrong when it comes to paying its workers.
When asked why the sudden change in May to pay workers $10.00 per hour for their 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. hours after years of paying a stipend, Crossley said, "No reason".
Utica attorney Mark Wolber, who is not involved in this case believes the workers have a good case, "They can't have people sleep there, require them to be on the premises and pay them less than minimum wage for the time that they are there. So in the past, instead of paying them $30 for 8 hours overnight they were not paying them consistent with the minimum wage and for that they can be made to reimburse them for those wages."
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