Working Mom Wins Back Withheld Paycheck

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August 2015 — With a halo of curls and a sharp fashion sense, Krista Davis had a head start on a career in cosmetology and she started her training. But she had to pay the bills, so she found a job at a daycare center.

She enrolled her daughter Kynade at the daycare center where she worked. Krista had a voucher to cover most of the cost and the owner told her that she did not have to pay her co-pay as a benefit of her employment. Ms. Davis worked for a year, earning $8 an hour and soon receiving a raise to $8.50. Things seemed to be working out and she was happy.

When she was ready to finish her cosmetology training, Ms. Davis gave one month’s notice to the daycare center.

About a week after her last day of work, she couldn’t understand why her paycheck didn’t show up as a direct deposit in her bank account.

“My heart dropped. I had bills to pay and my daughter to think of. I was using that money for school.” She later received an invoice for approximately $1,000 or the equivalent of a year’s worth of co-pays for Kynade’s daycare and found out her employer withheld her last two paychecks to pay for this debt Ms. Davis allegedly owed her former employer.

She came to Legal Aid for help recovering her wages. While it is patently illegal to withhold a paycheck even for a debt an employee owes her employer, the employer refused to budge. Ms. Davis’ Legal Aid attorney, Julie Cortes, spent numerous hours on the case to recover Ms. Davis’s $861 in unpaid wages and damages because she had to wait more than 18 months for her pay. The day care center’s attorney at first offered $500 “nuisance value” and did everything he could to prolong the case, which eventually settled for $1750.

Moreover, when she left her job, her employer reported the alleged “non-payment” of childcare voucher co-pays to Employment and Family Services (EFS). Ms. Davis lost her child care voucher, making it challenging to complete her training.

Ms. Cortes determined that the day care provider has the burden of collecting co-payments and must enter into a written agreement stating when co-pays are due. Without the written agreement, the agency cannot establish delinquency because there is no stated time when payments were supposed to be made. Following a state hearing on this issue, the hearing office agreed and ordered EFS to reinstate her childcare benefits.

“She was extremely motivated to get off public assistance,” says Ms. Cortes, who encouraged her client not to give up. “She finished school and wants a better life for herself and her daughter.”

Since settling her case, Ms. Davis has renewed her passion for childcare. In December she will complete her degree requirements to start her own daycare business and will follow her dreams as she and her family, with a new baby, move into a new home. “It’s all working out exactly how I needed it to.”

With the help of Legal Aid this working mom was able to get the help she needed, find her passion in life and continue to provide for her family, both financially and as a hard-working positive role model.

Join Legal Aid and ensure economic security for people like Ms. Davis.  Make a gift today by calling 216-861-5590 or visit www.lasclev.org/donate.

Click here to view the full Poetic Justice Issue where this story appeared.

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