Testimony of Eliseo Hernandez, DOES Performance Oversight Hearing
On Monday, March 4, 2013, Eliseo Hernandez testified before the DC Council’s Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs about his experiences with wage theft and the Office of Wage-Hour. Below is his testimony:
My name is Eliseo Hernandez and I am a resident of the District of Columbia. My story shows that the Office of Wage-Hour is not effective in protecting workers from wage theft due to the lack of efficacy in their work.
In February 2011, I began working with Gryphon Tile installing tiles on the walls of Wilson High School. They did not pay me anything until three weeks after I started working, and even then, they only paid me for one week. For this reason, I stopped working six weeks after I started. I was owed more than $2,500.
I tried to settle with Efrain Rodriguez, the owner. He only answered one of my many calls. He said many nasty things and claimed he did not owe me anything. Then, I went to the DC Employment Justice Center where I was referred to the Office of Wage-Hour of DC.
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First, I met with the owner of the company and Director Pam Banks and another person in the office who only spoke a little Spanish and I did not understand her very well. The owner agreed to pay me. When I did not hear anything in three weeks, I went back to the Office of Wage-Hour and Jim Alvarenga explained that the owner had sent another check for me that had already been cashed. I never received the check.
Jim Alvarenga told me to go to Wachovia bank to investigate who had cashed the check. I asked him why I had to investigate this and not them, and Alvarenga claimed that since I was the one interested in the issue it was my duty to do so.
From there, the Office of Wage-Hour sent me to do all the investigation. They sent me to investigate who cashed the check in two different banks, where they told me that Efrain Rodriguez was the one who had cashed the check in Middletown, Virginia.
On my own, I went to Middletown, Virginia, and I met a police detective in Middletown and we called Efrain Rodriguez. Efrain told the detective that he had cashed the checks in order to pay us in cash. The detective agreed to get a video from the bank to verify who had cashed the check and send it to the Office of Wage-Hour. He never did.
In September, 2011, the investigator explained that they had sent my case to court and that it could take a very long time. Over the next several months, I called the detective many times but he never answered.
Now, almost two years later, there has still been no resolution to my case. They still owe me thousands of dollars for my hard work. I am here to ask, with all due respect, that the Office of Wage-Hour take the responsibility for making employers of the city follow the law like they should.
What was done to me is theft. We need an effective agency where we can put an end to wage theft. The office needs stronger laws and more people to have enough staff to accomplish the organization’s mission. Imagine if you were in my situation: How would you feel?
Honorable members of the DC Council, please use the power of your office to resolve this problem.