104 Verona employee complaints in 6 years with no local penaltie - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

104 Verona employee complaints in 6 years with no local penalties

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You heard it last month -- Verona hotel not paying its employees. But just how familiar is this story?

The Verona Resort Guam has quite the track record of not paying its employees, but Polaris Guam, LLC - the company that owns the hotel - has never been punished for wage and hour violations, according to documents we got from the Department of Labor by way of Freedom of Information Act request.

According to these documents, 15 wage and hour complaints have been filed against Verona since 2013, but those 15 complaints have affected over 100 employees.

DOL Director David Dell'isola tells KUAM News the agency's priority is compliance, not punishing employers who don't comply with Guam's wage and hour laws.

"People run into financial difficulties on both sides both employer and employees and our resolve is to make sure that we come up with a resolution that's equitable for both of them," Dell'isola said.

DOL docs show that in 2013, a complaint was filed with local Department of Labor in an attempt to collect back wages for 61 employees. Four months after the complaint was filed, it was referred to U.S. DOL.

It wasn't a merry Christmas for Verona workers in December of 2015 as a complaint was filed for the collection of back wages due to 17 Verona workers. This case marked "closed" by DOL almost a whole year later - in September of 2016 - after Verona paid wages due directly to the employees. It's not clear why Verona was not penalized.

Verona employee "RJ" filed a complaint in November of 2017 and reached a settlement with the hotel in December 2017.

In 2018, four Verona workers filed three complaints with DOL 10 days before Christmas. The case marked closed by DOL on Dec 21.

In 2019, one employee filed a complaint in March for back wages and almost two weeks later Verona paid the employee. And in the most recent case, 16 employees filing with DOL for wage and hour violations, as we reported, the workers paid the next day.

Local labor lawyer John Bell has a few workman's comp cases going against DOL and he says Labor by law can fine wage and hour violators 12% collection fee. The law also says "each day a violation continues shall constitute a separate offense."

"They have the ability to assess that 12% and if you do nothing other than ask nicely for the employer to do what the law already requires," he said. "I get the fact that that's better than nothing - I get that. But if you don't penalize the employer at all, what does that teach the employer."

Ironically, a couple days ago, federal labor officials signed on to assist local DOL with wage and hour compliance, again "compliance" being stressed, not "enforcement."

"What it shows employers is we have nothing to lose by violating the law and making a business decision to not pay our employees and basically see if we can get away with it because apparently they can, right," Bell said. "They literally have gotten away with this for years."

And what about Dell'isola's assertion that employers have financial difficulties, too? And that back wage complaints should be settled in a way that's fair for both workers and bosses?

"You shouldn't be in business if you can't pay your employees," Bell said. 

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