Housekeepers charge Becker College with “wage theft”

Abuse is part of disturbing pattern of cheating already low paid workers

Five housekeepers and a horse barn manager at Becker College filed complaints with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division alleging that college management had cheated them out of tens of thousands of dollars in vacation time, holiday pay and overtime.

The six complaints were hand delivered to the Fair Labor Division on Friday, June 15.

“Vacation, holidays and health insurance should be a right for all Becker College workers,” said Maribel Santiago, a nine year veteran housekeeper from Worcester.  “Once we started to work together to improve our wages and benefits, we discovered a pattern of abuse.”

Becker College has a policy of giving vacation, health care and other benefits to workers with more than 28 hours weekly service.  Because the college management classifies these employees as “part-time” staff (under 28 hours), it does not provide them with full benefits.  Yet many housekeepers and other employees classified as part-time actually work sufficient hours to qualify for vacation and health care benefits.

“Some of us have been here for ten years and have been cheated the whole time,” said Mark Denner, a housekeeper who has worked at Becker since 2007.  “We deserve better treatment and fair pay.”

The Fair Labor Division limits its investigation to only the three previous years.  If it determines that the workers charges are valid, it will issue a formal complaint and seek restitution and possible fines.  If the division decides not to go forward, workers also have the option of suing in civil court.  If the college is found guilty, it could be held liable for triple damages and all attorney’s fees.

“SEIU Local 888 is proud to stand with these workers who have been shamelessly exploited by management,” said local president Mark DelloRusso.  “In today’s challenging environment for workers, gaining strength through unity is the key to winning dignity and justice on-the-job.”

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