Unions representing thousands of Rutgers employees filed a claim on Thursday with the Department of Labor (DOL) accusing the University of withholding an estimated $500,000 in wages and violating federal hour and wage laws.
The claim was filed in response to an incident last October in which the University withheld one week’s salary from former Rutgers school of Dental Medicine employees during a payroll transition, according to a press release. In the document, the unions claim the University illegally withheld the wages after the transition was complete.
Four unions representing University-employed housekeepers, clerical staff, clinicians, doctors, scientists, operations and maintenance staff and librarians have collaborated to demand the missing salaries.
“The University could have paid employees for the week it owed them without any problem. The switch in payroll systems was the reason the money was owed, but it is not the reason it was not paid. The money could have been paid at the time the systems were switched,” said staff organizer of Committee of Interns/Residents (CIR) Juanita Howard.
Howard said the University was aware of the shortchanges in October, and that Rutgers risks paying a fine equivalent to double what they owe in damages for withholding the wages.
The unions originally filed charges in November asking the University to pay the wages to resolve the situation, but Rutgers declined the settlement, Howard said.
“Rutgers labor relations representatives are aware of this issue. At <g>first,</g> they offered to pay one day a year for five years. More recently they have offered to pay two days in March and three days in July. But the unions that filed with DOL do not think this is adequate,” Howard said. “Employees worked for a week that they were not paid. Rutgers has held on to their money long enough. They should just pay their employees the money they owe them.”
John J. Gerow, president of Teamsters Local 97, said in the press release that Rutgers has chosen to allocate money towards its defense against the Department of Labor lawsuit rather than paying its faculty upfront.
“It is unacceptable that the University has not rectified this in over two months. The University would rather spend money litigating about monies that it clearly owes its employees than pay its hardworking employees,” Gerow said.
Howard said the situation reflects Rutgers' lack of respect for the individuals who work for the University.
“The unions understand that Rutgers needed to have a single payroll system. But that is not an excuse for not paying people wages they are owed,” Howard said.
In the press release, Howard described the University's actions as "wage theft."
Rutgers University issued the following statement, saying they could not comment on the details of the charges at this time.
"We have been working with our union partners to resolve the issue of the one-week hold back of pay for former UMDNJ employees that has been in place for many years, and long before the integration of UMDNJ into Rutgers. We look forward to having all outstanding issues resolved in a way that is appropriate, timely and beneficial," said Karen Smith, interim senior director of University News and Media Relations.