Former employees blast old boss for bounced paychecks, unpaid wages

Posted at 7:11 PM, Nov 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-02 19:12:36-04

Two former employees of Budget Bug Termite and Pest Control in Norfolk contacted NewsChannel 3 after they said owner Fred Hamiel did not pay them in full for months of work.

“I didn’t get paid my first two months I was there,” said former employee Jessica Shannon.  “I drained my savings account working for him.”

“The first time I got paid it was a problem. I couldn't cash it,” said former employee Shatarka Barrett.  “I felt like something is not right with this guy.”

The women told NewsChannel 3 Hamiel is good at termite and pest control, but not when it comes to paying his employees on time, or at all.  Both women said several paychecks they received bounced, and Hamiel would sometimes give them cash as partial payment.

“I shouldn’t have to hunt you down for money that is owed after I worked for it,” said Shannon, who said she is owed near $3,000.

"I have small kids I have to take care of.  I couldn’t pay my babysitter or the gas,” said Barrett, who said she is owed close to $400.

The women contacted NewsChannel 3 after their unsuccessful attempts to reach Hamiel after they quit working for him.

“I have called time after time, back-to-back, back-to-back,” said Barrett.

“He's throwing us for a loop,” said Barrett.  “He's running us around in circles because he doesn't think we're going to do anything.”

NewsChannel 3 Investigator Jessica Larche the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry received three payment of wage claims between April 2011 and February of this year. Court documents also reveal Hamiel was found guilty of embezzling $225 from Pest Masters, the company he worked for before starting his own company.

After several attempts to reach Hamiel at his home and business, he did not comment on NewsChannel 3’s investigation.   

According to Virginia Labor Laws, “Employers must establish regular pay rates and pay dates, and pay employees all wages, salaries, and commissions on or before the established pay day.

Fringe benefits such as vacation, sick, holiday, and severance pay are not required to be given under the law, and employers may establish any or no policy regarding these fringe benefits.

Payment must be made in cash, by check, or direct deposit if the employee chooses, and, in limited circumstances, by payroll debit cards. The law prohibits employers from making deductions, other than for taxes or other items required by law such as garnishments, without first securing the employee's written authorization to do so.

Even with written permission, employees cannot be required to forfeit their wages for shortages, errors, damages, etc. Employers can be assessed a $1,000 penalty per violation or face criminal charges for intentionally and willfully violating this law.”

Both women have taken their claims to the Department of Labor in Norfolk to get the money they say they are owed.

As for why they worked as long as they did with all the paycheck problems in the first place, they say they trusted Hamiel and wanted to help his business grow.

“I'm a very church-going person, and I believe in second chances,” Shannon said.

“It doesn’t pay to be nice all the time,” Barrett said.

Officials with the Department of Labor say if you have a claim for unpaid wages that's at least $2,500, call 1-877-829-2434.  If it's less than that, they suggest you take your case to small claims court.