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May 15, 2013

 

Suit-Kote sued over wages

Employee’s attorney seeking class action status in lawsuit against paving company

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

A class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court against Suit-Kote Corp. alleges the Cortlandville-based company failed to pay employees prevailing wages, overtime and benefits.
The suit could represent up to 700 employees affected by these practices, according to court papers, over a six-year time frame, which is the statute of limitations.
All employees who worked on a prevailing wage job would be affected, said Ryan Finn, an attorney with the Latham law firm Hacker Murphy, who represents Suit-Kote employee Andrew VanDee and other plaintiffs.
VanDee filed the lawsuit Friday.
Finn did not want to speculate on an amount that Suit-Kote could stand to pay, but said VanDee alone could stand to be paid “tens of thousands of dollars,” considering what he should have been paid according to prevailing wage and what he actually was paid.
Brian Renna, Suit-Kote Corp. spokesman, was not aware of the lawsuit by press time this morning.
“We have not been served with any lawsuit,” Renna said this morning. He deferred comment until looking over the court papers.
VanDee worked as equipment operator, flagger and laborer for Suit-Kote, according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges Suit-Kote failed to pay VanDee and other plaintiffs prevailing wages and supplemental benefits required by law.
Finn said the supplemental pay, a requirement of all prevailing wage work, is where the bulk of money stands.
All prevailing wage workers should be paid a supplemental fee either in the form of $15 extra per hour or health and other benefits, he said. Suit-Kote just this year put a formal plan into effect that would provide for these supplemental benefits, Finn said.
“In previous years they just gave guys ... two weeks sick time, a week vacation, or health insurance they offered some people but not others... but when I sat down to do the math myself there was no way it was anywhere near that $15 an hour supplement,” Finn said.
The suit also alleges Suit-Kote failed to pay workers overtime when they worked over eight hours a day, or the company paid overtime on job classifications at a lower rate than what was actually deserved.
According to court papers, since employees may perform a variety of tasks throughout the day, they should be paid overtime at the rate of the task they are performing when they work more than eight hours a day or more than five days a week.
“However, defendant Suit-Kote consistently violated this requirement by paying overtime at a reduced rate by intentionally misclassifying the work performed,” states the suit.
Suit-Kote also repeatedly refused to compensate employees fully for travel time, according to court papers.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages in the amount of unpaid wages and interest and punitive damages.
Finn said he will officially serve the complaint on Suit-Kote within a few days and then the company will have 20 days to respond.
In a class action lawsuit, the first phase is for the courts to decide whether the suit merits a class action or if it should be brought individually. That could take up to six months, Finn said.
The next phase decides the merits of the case, whether Suit-Kote did violate any prevailing wage laws.
Finn said if it is decided to be a class action suit then employees would be notified and given the chance to “opt out,” otherwise they would automatically be considered a plaintiff in the case. He said he has heard from a few other employees besides his client who think they may be affected.
The 700 employees is an “educated guess” as to the actual number of employees the suit would affect, he said.

 

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