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Employees file complaints about wages

Title: Employees file complaints about wages
Date: Thursday, 23 April 2009
Publisher: Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Elizabeth Willis
Main source:

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ALBION — Employees at a drug and alcohol treatment center are claiming they haven't been paid.

Connie Hobbs and Debra Mikowski have filed complaints with the Wage and Hour Division of the state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth this month against Narconon Freedom Center in Albion.

Christina Assante, Narconon Freedom Center senior director of administration, is claiming Hobbs resigned without notice and was paid in full. She also claims Mikowski resigned and was paid on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Assante did not know if Mikowski had received her paper check, which she thinks was left with a receptionist.

Mikowski, 52, of Albion said she did not quit, but told Assante she would come back to work when they paid her.

Now, she says, "I don't know if I trust them. ... I actually used to love working there and now it's turned into I hate them."

The state is investigating Hobbs' claim, made on April 1; Mikowski's claim, made Tuesday, will be assigned to an investigator.

Narconon Freedom Center at 809 E. Erie St. in Albion has beds for 124 residents and staffs about 40 employees, Assante said.

Mikowski said she worked for the treatment center and its predecessor, Narconon Stonehawk East, for nearly three years. She said she started working for $8 an hour as a driver, picking up patients from the airport and running errands. Later she worked in marketing and received a raise of 50 cents an hour.

In October, she and about 15 other employees were laid off, she said. Then on March 28 she and a part-time employee were called back to work.

Other employees jokingly told her, "I hope they have a check for you in two weeks," she said.

Mikowski claims she should have been paid on April 17 but Assante did not have a paycheck for her.

"They said they have no money," Mikowski said.

The private-pay facility charges about $25,000 per resident. Assante said the facility has not had a decline in patient enrollments despite a poor economy.

In total, Mikowski said she is owed about $600 for ten days of work and then another paycheck of about $400 is due May 1.

"I'm sure eventually I will get paid for it," Mikowski said. "According to my coworkers, they will get paid, even though they are running one or two checks behind."

Mikowski said several other employees have not been paid when promised and some are still owed wages. Assante refused to comment on the issue.

Efforts to contact Hobbs were not immediately successful.

The treatment center will have to comply with DELEG investigations or face a fine of $300-$1,000, depending on the law violated, said Jack Finn, Wage and Hour Division administrator.

About 75 percent of investigations are completed within 90 days. Some cases are tried before an administrative law judge. Most are settled out of court.

Finn said he has noticed an uptick in the number of claims filed related to the poor economy, but he said, "The vast amount (of employers) follow the law."

Employees who would like to file a complaint for unpaid wages or benefits can call 517-335-0400 or go to

Elizabeth Willis can be reached at 966-0684 at