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Overtime

Bi-County Auto Shop in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook

A Smithtown auto body shop has been ordered to pay $185,000 in back wages to its employees plus damages for violating federal labor laws regarding overtime pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Aug. 14 that it obtained a judgment against Paul Joseph Dill and Paul Jeremy Dill, the two owners of Bi-County Auto Body, ordering them to pay $185,000 in back wages plus an equal amount in damages to 49 employees, plus $30,000 in civil penalties, for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The employer engaged in an unlawful practice to deny employees the overtime wages they had legally earned and to conceal their failure to pay for those hours,” said Irv Miljoner, Long Island director of U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours Division. “The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to those workers, and to leveling the playing field for employees who play by the rules.

From July 2014 to April 2016, the Smithtown employers violated labor laws by paying its employees in cash for any overtime beyond the 40-hour workweek and paying straight time, according to U.S. Department of Labor. Federal standards mandate that employees be paid one and one-half times their normal rate of pay when working overtime.

In addition, federal investigators said the employers also deducted one hour of pay from employees’ daily hours for a meal break, even though workers often were unable to take an uninterrupted break. Bi-County Auto Shop failed to keep track of time its employees worked beyond 40 per week in an attempt to conceal overtime, according to U.S. Department of Labor, resulting in recordkeeping violations.

“This case shows that the U.S. Department of Labor will take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and to rectify wage violations, so employees are not denied their justly earned pay,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the department’s regional solicitor of labor.

Under the terms of the court judgment, Bi-County Auto and its owners are prohibited from accepting the return of back wages from its employees and discrimination from any employees who step forward to exercise their rights under federal labor law.

A manager at Bi-County Auto Shop stated that the company has no comment on the judgment issued Tuesday.

Any worker who believes that their employer may be violating minimum wage or overtime laws may report them through U.S. Department of Labor’s PAID program. More information on federal labor laws can be found at www.dol.gov/whd.

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

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Jesse DiStasio stretches his arms over the goal line for the game-winning touchdown. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Centereach’s football team scored four touchdowns in 18 minutes to erase a 28-0 West Islip lead and send the game into overtime Oct. 28. After West Islip was held to a field goal, Centereach senior Jesse DiStasio scored the game-winning touchdown in a 34-31 come-from-behind thriller.

Jay Morwood tosses a pass. Photo by Jim Ferchland

After a 32-yard field goal by West Islip’s Bobby Dicapua, Centereach had an opportunity to win the game with a touchdown. Senior quarterback Jay Moorwood rushed out of the pocket avoiding pressure and connected with DiStasio, who was running on a deep slant and caught the pass at the 2-yard line before lunging with outstretched arms over the goal line for the 20-yard touchdown.

“The defender stopped me short,” DiStasio said. “I stretched over and I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it; I just saw everybody running to me. It was the best feeling of my life.”

West Islip led 28-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Morwood’s athleticism, vision and elusiveness outside the pocket made him a threat West Islip couldn’t contain. After throwing three interceptions, Morwood’s performance emerged in the fourth quarter with three crucial touchdowns. He finished with 276 passing yards on 19 completions with four touchdowns.

“I had all the confidence in the world in my team,” Morwood said on that final overtime possession. “I knew we were scoring. No one was stopping us. It didn’t matter who was getting the ball. I knew we were going to score no matter what.”

Jesse DiStasio celebrates the win with his teammates. Photo by Jim Ferchland

West Islip quarterback Mike LaDonna supplied all the offense for the Lions with his legs. He had 22 carries for 191 yards on the ground with four touchdowns.

“I’ve never been a part of playing or coaching a better comeback in the second half of a game,” Centereach head coach Adam Barrett said. “We kind of wanted to forget that first half. It was one of the best games I’ve ever been apart of.”

Centereach junior wide receiver and kick returner Devin Demetres ignited a spark after West Islip went up four scores. He broke free of multiple tackles on a 98-yard kick return and took the ball back for a touchdown, and the Cougars continued to plant their foot on the gas peddle.

Morwood took the offense under his wing with his scrambling ability and accuracy. He connected with his 6-foot, 2-inch senior wide receiver Chris Witherspoon on a 23-yard touchdown in the far right corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 15, and launched the ball to Demetres into double coverage, which was was tipped by a West Islip defender before landing in Demetres’ hands for a 65-yard touchdown to make it 28-20.

“Jay made a great throw and the defense undercut it,” said Demetres, who had four receptions for 110 yards. “They cut it it too much and I knew they were going to tip it up, so I just kept my focus on the ball.”

Devin Demetres races into the end zone for a touchdown. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Senior running back Alec Kiernan, who carried Centereach’s offense all season long, was shut down by West Islip’s defense, which even forced a fumble on him. Although he was not a contributor on offense, he made a big defensive play on West Islip’s next drive.

Kiernan intercepted a pass with 4:20 left to play, and took the ball into Lions territory.

“We had the momentum before that play,” Kiernan said. “That play definitely set up a beautiful drive by Jay [Morwood]. We knew we had a chance.”

The interception resulted in Morwood’s touchdown to Demetres from 11 yards out with 2:38 left. Centereach converted on a two-point conversion to tie the game 28-28.

“It’s not a one person game,” Kiernan said of the comeback. “It’s a team game. We love each other and that’s how our team plays.”

Centereach finishes the regular season at 7-1 in Division I. Ranked No. 3 in the postseason, the Cougars will host No. 6 Bay Shore at 2 p.m. in the No. 4 qualifying round game.

“Every coach wants to go 8-0 every year and win the championship,” Barrett said. “Since I got to Centereach four years ago, we were always building. For the way the program was, we’re just getting better every year and continue to be successful.”

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The New York State comptroller said overtime was not monitored as efficiently as possible at schools, including Hauppauge Middle School. File photo

By Wenhao Ma

Hauppauge school district reportedly failed to efficiently monitor employee overtime to ensure that the district is incurring only necessary costs.

According to an audit report released by the New York State Comptroller’s office, the staff at Hauppauge did not fully comply with the district’s procedures for obtaining preapproval for overtime during a period from July 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2015.

The report said employees must obtain approval before working overtime, however there are not “adequate procedures in place to ensure overtime is pre-approved.”

Out of the select 15 payments that contained the highest amount of overtime pay in the report, none of the overtime hours worked had been preapproved.

The audit used one security guard as an example.

The chosen security guard worked 33.5 overtime hours and received overtime payments totaling $1,143 for “video room coverage.” According to the report, even though district timesheets provide space for supervisors to preapprove overtime, department and security office supervisors did not approve the overtime on the record before the work was started.

“New procedures will be created requiring overtime and the associated justification to be pre-approved by department supervisors,”  — James Stucchio

The report listed two recommendations for district officials: to implement procedures to approve and provide justification for overtime prior to the work being performed and review security staffing and to determine whether work shifts can be rearranged to incorporate video room coverage into a regular workday, instead of an employee monitoring cameras during off hours.

Hauppauge administration accepted the recommendations and promised to implement new measures within the next 90 days. The district said the current protocol is to approve overtime after the work has been performed, but they would look at reversing the process.

“New procedures will be created requiring overtime and the associated justification to be pre-approved by department supervisors,” James Stucchio, deputy superintendent, said in a response to the report. “This will protect the district from unauthorized extra work and allow for the possible rearranging of shifts to lower or eliminate the need for the overtime.”

Additionally, Hauppauge said it will review the shifts for the security staff in order to determine if coverage for monitoring the surveillance system and other related work can be incorporated into regular shifts, and examine if it needs to add a part-time staff member to lower or eliminate the overtime.

Activists demonstrate across the state in a 2013 rally for farmworkers’ rights. Photo from U. Roberto Romano

The road to fairness for farmworkers starts in Suffolk County.

Supporters of the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act, as it has been known for the majority of its existence, which has spanned years and decades, will begin a 200-mile march to Albany on May 15, starting from Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office in Smithtown. A group called the Rural Migrant Ministry organized the March for Farmworker’s Justice. The group has been lobbying for better working and living conditions and benefits like overtime pay and health insurance for farmworkers, who Linda Obernauer, a volunteer with the ministry, said “live in fear” under “strongholds” from many farmers.

“The owners of the farm are the landlords — the owners of the housing,” Boris Martinez, a farmworker from a nursery in Patchogue, said through translator Katia Chapman in a phone interview Tuesday. Martinez is from El Salvador and has worked at the nursery for about two years, he said. “The owners only care that the housing is okay when inspection is going to come. They don’t care what state the housing is in, what condition the housing is in. It’s most likely that there will be at least 10 people living there.”

Nathan Berger is the main organizer of the march, which is a yearly occurrence. Participants march between 10 and 15 miles per day, stopping overnight to sleep at churches or at homes provided by volunteer host families. Obernauer said anyone is welcome to march, and they can join during any leg and participate for as many or as few miles as desired. Berger could not be reached for comment.

“We should all be involved in this,” Obernauer said in a phone interview Friday. “They are who we are but we don’t give them justice.”

Martinez said during a snowstorm last year many of the rooms in the housing provided by the owner of the farm where he works had leaks. Snow and water got inside of virtually all of the rooms. About 10 tenants share the home at a given time.

“The difficulty is that if we were to say to the owner that it’s not adequate housing he would send us out of the house to rent elsewhere because here when you work at his farm we don’t pay rent and it would be difficult to afford rent elsewhere,” Martinez said. “None of the workers are paid overtime pay. None of us have health insurance and if we get sick we don’t have the resources to pay for basic medical care. I know a lot of other workers in the area and none of them are paid overtime pay. Many of us don’t have a day of rest either. I’m right now working about 60 hours a week but when the weather warms up I’ll probably be working 67 or 68 hours.”

“The owners only care that the housing is okay when inspection is going to come.”
­— Boris Martinez

Martinez added he has friends who work upward of 80 hours a week.

“Those in power, they don’t care how we’re doing as workers, what they care about is the money that we’re producing for them,” he said.

An anonymous website, located at www.nyfarmworkerprotectionbill.com, provides the farmers’ perspective on the seemingly never-ending battle. An attempt to contact the purveyor of the website was unsuccessful. The email associated is no longer active.

“[The Rural Migrant Ministry] and others have recruited various celebrities and ‘foodies’ to support the bill, as well as downstate/New York City legislators, most of whom have never even been to a farm,” the site says. “We believe these individuals have been misled and have not done the proper research to find out the truth about farms, growers, farmworkers, and the challenges we face to bring fresh food to as many tables as possible.”

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) is the sponsor of the bill in its current form. The site suggests increased rights and benefits for farmworkers would take a financial toll on farmers’ businesses.

“What we are talking about are five or six exemptions to state labor law,” the site states. “These exemptions, like the one for overtime pay exist because of the production and marketing realities associated with farming. Farming does not take place in an enclosed building with a regulated environment. We have a limited time to plant and harvest. If overtime is enacted, farmers will have to cut hours during the growing season so as to afford the extra hours needed at planting and harvest times which can’t be avoided.”

Flanagan was a sponsor of the bill during his time in the State Assembly in the early 2000s. Since being elected to the State Senate in 2002 he has publicly supported the bill. However, despite becoming the GOP majority leader in 2015, the bill remains before the Labor Committee and has yet to pass the Senate. Flanagan did not respond to multiple requests for comment through his public relations personnel.

Jose Ventura, another farmworker from Guatemala who lives on Long Island, said his living and working conditions are not bad, but he also does not receive overtime or health benefits. He will be participating in the march.

“I’m participating in the march because even though, as I said, I like my job, I also see my friends, my companions that they are not always treated well,” Ventura said in a phone interview Tuesday through Chapman as a translator. “On their farms they’re not always paid fairly. There’s a lot of Guatemalan farmworkers and some of them are mistreated in the job and while I feel that this march is for the benefit of my people, therefore I feel motivated to be a part of the movement.”

Martinez, who also plans to participate in the march, said he knows his value and plans to fight for it.

“Farmworkers are the most important workers in every country because they’re the ones producing the food for the country.”

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Rocky Point’s Sara Giammarella beats a swarm of players to the ground ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team may be young, but Rocky Point girls’ lacrosse is mighty.

With 13 seconds left on the clock in sudden-death overtime, sophomore midfielder Madison Sanchez scored her fourth goal of Tuesday’s game to give the Eagles what is believed to be their program’s first win over Shoreham-Wading River in school history.

Shannon Maroney makes a save for Rocky Point. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Shannon Maroney makes a save for Rocky Point. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I thought, ‘I have to do this,’ I put my heart into it, I knew I needed to get it in, and I did,” Sanchez said of the final goal that gave her team the 10-9 victory. “Relief — that’s what it feels like. I’m speechless. It felt really good, especially considering we’ve never beat Shoreham before.”

As her team toppled her to the ground, there was another shining star for the Eagles out on the field being celebrated. Sophomore goalkeeper Shannon Maroney made 20 stops in goal, including one with three seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, and another 30 seconds into the three-minute session.

“We were really great on defense and we moved the ball quick on offense,” she said. “We pulled for each other when we needed to. We came through when we needed the ball. We worked really hard today.”

Rocky Point (6-3 in Division II) struggled to win the draw all evening, but when the Eagles gained possession, they made it count. With 13:49 left in the game, Sanchez scored her hat trick goal when she gained possession at midfield and charged up to the front of the cage to put her team up by two, 8-6.

Shoreham-Wading River junior midfielder Sophia Triandafils wouldn’t let her team go down quietly though, scoring at the 12:16 mark and again at 6:27, after Maroney made back-to-back saves, to tie the game 8-8.

“We had sloppy moments on the field,” said Triandafils, who also added two assists. “It’s hard going against a team that has so many athletes like Rocky Point. You give them an inch and they take a mile, and here and there we gave them a few inches and we just couldn’t come back from it.”

Rocky Point’s Madison Sanchez is checked by Shoreham’s Jesse Arline. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rocky Point’s Madison Sanchez is checked by Shoreham’s Jesse Arline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wildcats (7-3 in Division II) showed their resiliency, keeping within striking distance each time their opponent scored. Triandafils said her team just needs a little more work.

“We have some good glimpses here and there of the team that we could be,” she said. “We have so much potential on the team, and once we put together a full game, I think we can compete with anyone, play with anyone and beat anyone.”

Freshman attack and midfielder Brianna Lamoureux scored her second goal of the game with 39 seconds left in regulation to give Rocky Point a 9-8 lead, but Shoreham-Wading River’s Maddie Farron tied it up to force overtime just 10 seconds later.

The three minutes were almost up when Sanchez found the back of the net.

While the loss snapped Shoreham-Wading River’s seven-game win streak, the win keeps Rocky Point at the top of the league leaderboard, among undefeated Bayport-Blue Point and Mount Sinai and Eastport-South Manor.

Shoreham’s Sofia Triandafils and Rocky Point’s Christina Bellissimo fight for the loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Shoreham’s Sofia Triandafils and Rocky Point’s Christina Bellissimo fight for the loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

On April 28, Rocky Point travels to Harborfields (6-2 in Division II) at 4 p.m., while Shoreham-Wading River hosts Hauppauge (4-4 in Division II) at 4 p.m.

Although Rocky Point is still without its leading goal scorer in freshman midfielder Brianna Carrasquillo, who netted 34 goals in eight games this season, head coach Dan Spallina is looking forward to where his young team is taking him.

“This group is young, energetic, and there’s such a bond between them,” he said. “As a coach who’s been doing this for a long time, it’s something you can’t bring to the girls. They have to have it on their own, and they do. We’ve been talking about leadership and we’ve been talking about heart and for Maddie Sanchez to take that one-on-one and beat out a girl that should be up for All-American speaks to the type of player that she is. She’s kind of a pass-first kind of girl, but she deserves it. She deserves a win like this. They all do.”

Employee attendance to be tracked electronically

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town employees may soon have their work time and attendance tracked by a new electronic system.

The board voted unanimously by resolution earlier this month to authorize the implementation of an electronic time and attendance system. The resolution was sponsored by Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and seconded by Councilman Gene Cook (I). The new electronic system will replace an old paper sign-in system.

“There has to be a system in place to track employees’ times,” Berland said in a phone interview this week.
The resolution was adopted for two reasons, Berland said.

In 2013, an audit of the town’s payroll costs by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office found the town had issues monitoring its overtime and leave benefits that could have entailed higher payroll costs.

The audit findings resulted in a recommendation to upgrade the town’s outdated time and attendance system.

Issues with overtime and leave are expected to be alleviated by the updated electronic system, which was a major finding of the 2013 audit. The audit looked at records from January 2011 through May 2012, and found that Huntington Town allowed employees to accrue more leave than bargaining agreements permit.

Implementing the electronic system also fulfills a requirement to qualify for tax relief for New York State taxpayers as part of the Government Efficiency Plan program. The plan, which is outlined on the state Division of the Budget page on the New York State government website, states that local governments and school districts can generate relief for taxpayers and qualify for the program by reducing costs through the consolidation of services.

The new automated system would be a step in the right direction to qualifying Huntington Town for the program and fulfilling the state requirements, Berland said. The new system was available on the New York State contract and procured with the New Jersey-based company SHI International Corp., according to the resolution. The total cost, which includes service contracts, computers, software and printers, will be $255,000.

“It helps lower payroll costs in the end,” Berland said, which she said is a key deciding factor in gaining approval on the town’s Government Efficiency Plan.

The new system will also serve to provide the town with “a more uniform sign in policy,” town spokesman A.J. Carter said during a phone interview.

Berland said there is not yet a timetable in regards to when the new system will be up and running, and that she did not want to speculate on a date.

“We have to develop a plan about how and when to institute this,” Berland said.

Double ‘O’ Landscaping Inc. owner Richard Orvieto. Photo from the attorney general's office

Suffolk County officials arrested Richard Orvieto, 55, of Stony Brook on Tuesday and charged him with failing to pay overtime to workers.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Orvieto, the owner and operator of Double “O” Landscaping Inc., committed wage theft while operating his Stony Brook-based business.

From Aug. 24, 2011, to Jan. 31, 2014, Orvieto hired workers and allegedly neglected to pay them overtime, according to a criminal complaint. Toward the end of 2013 Orvieto fired three of these employees and neglected to pay them for their final week at the company, the attorney general said.

The Attorney General’s office said Orvieto was supposed to pay his employees one and one half times their regular pay if they worked more than 40 hours a week. The three unidentified employees who were fired allegedly worked around 20 hours of overtime per week and were not compensated, Schneiderman said.

Orvieto now owes these employees more than $13,000, according to the attorney general.

Orvieto is also charged with defrauding the state unemployment insurance system for paying wages in cash off the books. Schneiderman said he did not report the wages of two of the three former employees and several other workers to the state unemployment insurance fund for this quarterly period.

Double “O” Landscaping’s quarterly return files did not include the names of the fired employees consistently, the complaint said. For the quarterly return files, filed from July 31, 2012, to Jan. 31, 2014, did not include the names of the three fired workers, Schneiderman said.However, Orvieto’s name consistently appeared on these documents.

The landscape business owner “is also liable for unpaid unemployment insurance contributions, fraud penalties and interest to the state unemployment insurance system totaling more than $19,000,” the attorney general said in a press release.

Orvieto was arraigned on June 22 in the 1st District Court in Central Islip. His next court date was set for Aug. 25.

He faces felony charges for falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing both in the first degree. Orvieto also faces two unclassified misdemeanors for failure to pay wages under Labor Law Section 198-a(1) and Willful Failure to Pay Unemployment Insurance Contributions. If convicted, he faces maximum jail sentence of four years.

Orvieto and his company will also “face maximum fines, in addition to restitution, of $20,000 for each count.”

Orvieto’s defense attorney, Paul Kalker of Hauppauge, was unavailable for comment.

Under New York law, employers are required “to pay wages no later than seven days after the end of the week when the wages were earned and to report all wages paid to employees on quarterly tax filings with the state,” according to the attorney general’s office.

Schneiderman was unavailable for further comment but said in the press release that protecting hardworking New York employees is a priority.

“My office will take aggressive action, including criminal charges, where appropriate, against business workers who fail to properly compensate their workers, and who try to avoid other laws by paying workers off the books,” Schneiderman said.

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