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Hempstead homeless shelter remains in violation of living wage laws, Nassau comptroller says

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on Oct. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A homeless shelter that receives funding from Nassau County continued to violate living wage laws, county Comptroller George Maragos said Thursday -- nearly two years after he first disclosed that the nonprofit operators had underpaid employees by $120,000.

In a follow-up letter to his April 2013 audit, Maragos' office told Peace Valley Haven in Hempstead that it still owed eight employees more than $11,000 from the original violations, which took place in 2010 and 2011. The letter also said the shelter additionally had not paid nine employees $13,354 for overtime worked in 2012 and 2013 and underpaid six employees $3,381 in 2013, again violating the living wage law.

Nassau County has paid Peace Valley Haven roughly $500,000 a year since 2010 to provide services to the homeless, records show. The county mandates that companies it does business with pay its employees at least $15.50 an hour without health benefits or $13.58 an hour with benefits.

"It is disturbing to find that employees who provide a crucial service to our most needy are still not being paid fairly according to our law," Maragos said Thursday in a statement, noting that the affected shelter employees were mostly house managers and clerical staff.

Shelter director Daphne Haynes did not return a request for comment Thursday. But in its Dec. 30 response to a draft of the county's follow-up audit, Peace Valley Haven said that it has since completed repaying the employees who earned less than the living wage in 2010 and 2011 and that it is holding funds in escrow for the estates of two deceased employees.

Michael L. Cirrito, a shelter attorney, said in the audit response that workers not paid for overtime in 2012 and 2013 have now been compensated.

"Peace Valley Haven has agreed in the future to adhere to the policies of its personnel manual and the Fair Labor Standards Act with respect to overtime pay," Cirrito wrote.

But he added that the shelter believes it properly paid its employees in 2013 as mandated by the county's living wage law. He noted that, as of this month, Peace Valley Haven workers will receive $17 an hour -- $1.50 more than Nassau requires.

Maragos' audit asks for proof that the shelter has repaid the workers and that it properly documents its payroll.

On its website, Peace Valley Haven notes that "in the past year, we've accomplished a great deal, including assisting homeless to enroll in school, obtain jobs, raising awareness of homeless in the community, and sponsored 380 children with back-to-school supplies."

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