I am a small business owner and work hard to pay my employees and workers a generous wage. I always treat others the way I wish to be treated. But now I face a great battle of injustice. About a year ago I received a legal letter demanding overtime back pay from a lawyer representing a fired disgruntled worker. The worker was fired for excessive gossip, lying and insubordination. I gave her many chances but she was a troublemaker. I finally had to let her go when she told a trainee to disregard anything the supervisor did to train her. Maid service is a hard job it’s very physical. I started this business on my own hands and knees, pulled myself up from my bootstraps, cleaned every day myself when I first started my business and always paid 25% higher than any other maid service around because I believed in caring for people who worked for me. On average, my ladies work about 6 1/2 hours a day due to the nature of the work. Residential house cleaning happens between 9 AM and 4 PM. Monday through Friday and every once in a while is Saturday on a volunteer only basis, And sometimes my workers would beg me for extra work. I used to pay them hourly but then I offered them salary because it would be dependable money. They would never have to worry if a house canceled, and there was only a half days work... they would still get the same money per day. I ran my business from my home. The ladies would meet up and off they go off and they would come back two or three in the afternoon it didn’t matter because I would still pay them for a full day of work at a generous flat rate. I let the supervisors take them to lunch, give free rides home instead of dropping them off at the bus stop which is common place in the DC metro area. I just cared. I was too trusting back then and often would pay them extra on longer days if it was seven or eight hours I would buy them breakfast, Christmas gifts, extra $20s. I covered the cost of all broken items, they were never punished for breaking something at a customers home. I would protect them and gave them a fair work; I would fight to protect them, many of my workers didn’t have the same opportunities, most with low education levels. Some workers illiterate. If I saw one of my workers didn’t have decent shoes I would buy her shoes. I would spend extra time with them on my weekends to help them fill out their personal school/bank/paperwork. Anything, online applications to better themselves, helping them fill out paperwork, explaining technical words in their child custody cases or making a payment on a utility bill So their water wouldn’t be shut off. Other times, simply giving a grocery gift card to buy food for their family....anything extra I could do I was always there.
Going back to the facts, she claimed she was working overtime every week. All not true. I have all my employees and workers as witnesses. I have all the written time logs too. There were only about eight weeks where she approached 40 hours. But she was a salaried worker, she chose salary when given the option, of salary vs. hourly pay. She worked on average 34 hours per week.
When I got that letter from her attorney about a year ago I couldn’t believe the betrayal and lies but I thought a simple meeting showing her and her attorney all my time records over the past three years would dismiss this silly claim. I drove the hour to meet them dragging three bankers boxes on a dolly full of files and time cards. After the meeting it seemed that the lawyer realized there was no case and he acknowledged I had proof that the worker was paid fairly. But, he figured I was an easy target....so months later, I was shocked to see he was now suing me. Not only my business but personally. Started making demands for information from my LLC, but I was stuck, as I learned as an LLC you cannot self represent and must hire an attorney..... so he knows the tricks. I would need to get a lawyer. The plaintiffs lawyer is vicious, and his firm sues small businesses for a living, not charging legal fees the people who make the claims, unless they win. He’s coming after me hard threatening me and trying to convince me that he’s incurred over $30,000 worth of legal expenses in trying to beat me....lies...less than 3 hours that showed up as potential overtime pay that was unaccounted for. He does this for a living so he’s kept pursuing me, coming after me personally and pursuing me for three years rather than two years which is uncommon and usually only used if some bad business had malicious intent.
Sadly, his strategy is working to drive up my defense legal cost, crippling me financially, almost forcing me to settle on a case that I’m not guilty of, so I can stop the financial bleed to my livelihood. Now, without additional funds, I have to choose between Justice and putting food on the table. Even if I settle, around 80% of it goes to the plaintiffs law firm with their fake bills only a pittance for the disgruntled worker.
This attorney is so predatory that he even helped her devise a bogus spreadsheet that claimed she worked 50 hours a week and was due thousands in overtime. I’ve been going through the legal process with my attorney who is very expensive and sees that he has little to no evidence against me but with the crazy legal costs, and the tiny chance that a sympathetic jury would go against me, I would be faced to pay the plaintiffs bogus legal fees too. I learned from a friend that 95% of these type of cases settle because small businesses simply don’t have the funds to defend themselves or are plain scared. It sickens me to have to give money to a liar and a predatory bad guy in life when I’ve been nothing but honest. Mom and dad raised me right with morals. I’ve always given every person a chance. I believed her, I trusted her and now she’s taking advantage of me causing me to lose my health and wellness from this stress. Why can an illegal immigrant use our legal system wrongly against the business who pays fair wages, taxes and tries to do everything right? I’m running out of money to defend myself even though I have all the records to prove that she was not due any overtime. I have already spent roughly $13,000 trying to defend myself and it’s financially devastating my family. My spouse recently lost his job and we are struggling to make ends meet. The most frustrating thing is that I am innocent. I’ve played by the rules, done nothing bad. I’ve always fairly compensated my workers to the point where I don’t make as much money as I should because I have a big heart. I hired her from a referral. I remember the day I interviewed her , she had me in tears...I believed her, she claimed to be legal to work in the US but sadly, all her paperwork and legal documents have been burned in a house fire...my heart broke for her of course I wanted to help her and give her a job. Maybe I am gullible, Guilty as charged, but after I fired her, I found out she was an illegal. After reviewing the last three years of her hours there were only eight weeks that she approached 40 hours, BUT I never took out for lunch breaks. The longer we deliberate, the more cost the plaintiffs attorney claims. He creates work for my attorneys so he can ring up my bills and they are very high. I couldn’t bring myself to check the mailbox on Saturday as I knew another attorney bill was in the mailbox for $6800, where would that money come from?
And the plaintiff’s lawyer claims to have sunk $30,000 In his own legal expenses to try to recover her “damages” of under $50 dollars that I don’t have a cash receipt for. The world has become a crazy place.
Please help me raise funds to defend my honest company. She is abusing our legal system. I am trying to raise funds so I can fight for justice and defend my company against this illegal immigrant who was never overworked and always well paid. If I have to settle, It’s sickening because only a tiny percentage would go to the worker and the law firm will walk away with a fat profit on lies and coercion, roughly $29,000. This scamming attorney seeks out “poor immigrants” and makes false cases to go after small businesses like mine. Most if not all are forced to settle because of rising legal costs for an honest defense. Over the last three years on paper the employee had 2.7 total hours of overtime and I gave her cash at the end of the day to compensate that on many more days.
If you believe in justice please donate anything you can to help me fight and win this case because the bad guys shouldn’t win. Help support American Justice! Thank you for anything you can donate!