Testimony of James Reese, DOES Performance Oversight Hearing
On Monday, March 4, 2013, James Reese 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 video and prepared text of his testimony.
Good morning Councilmembers:
My name is James A. Reese, Jr. I’m here to testify about my experience as a victim of wage theft. When I stood up for my rights and fought for my rightfully earned wages, I was fired from my job, suffered extreme hardship, and found no support from the DC Office of Wage-Hour.
During the summer of 2012, I worked for a staffing company by the name of Tradesmen International. I worked on jobs at the National Cathedral and the Boling Air Force Base. I consistently received my paychecks days or weeks late. I found myself calling the office every week about my paycheck. I had to ask my manager at Tradesmen International to call my landlord to explain to him why they had not paid me and when I would be receiving my paycheck, because our rent was past due.
One day, when I requested the delayed paycheck I was owed, I was fired. Tradesman claims that they terminated me for information found in my criminal background that was over twenty years old. However, I believe that my criminal background was used as a pretext to justify firing me in retaliation for demanding my wages.
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After I was fired, I received two paychecks, but they were several days later than required by DC law, were postdated for two days after they were given to me, and I only got them because my wife and I physically went out to Fairfax, VA to demand them up. Even then, I was also still owed a third paycheck for my final day of work, which was seven business days overdue. With help from the Employment Justice Center, Tradesman paid me the final wages and damages that I was owed.
On January 10, 2013, my wife Teresa Reese and I met with Jim Alvarenga of the Office of Wage-Hour to discuss my retaliation claim. During our very brief meeting, I was informed by Mr. Alvarenga that they do not handle retaliation claims, and that we would need to go to the Office of Human Rights located at One Judiciary Square. However, in the Office of Human Rights, they told my wife and me that they do not handle wage and hour retaliation claims, and sent us back to the DC Office of Wage-Hour. My wife has a chronic disease. She needed to stop working and now she is on disability. I lost valuable days of work, which I really just need to be able to pay our rent, pay for our car and make sure we have food in our icebox, because I was getting incorrect information about who would handle my claim.
In summary, the DC Office of Wage-Hour has given us misleading information on two occasions and has further escalated our frustration in this process. If we cannot rely on that office to assist us with these matters what recourse do we have if they continue to give misinformation? To this day, I have not been able to file a retaliation claim on my case.