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National Grid workers get settlement over paycheck problem

National Grid workers assess roads in Lattingtown for

National Grid workers assess roads in Lattingtown for clearing so LIPA repair crews could get to power lines damaged by superstorm Sandy. Employees have just settled with the company over errors in paychecks that started as Sandy rolled in. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

More than 6,500 National Grid workers statewide whose personal finances were thrown into disarray by the company's error-riddled rollout of a new computer payroll system during superstorm Sandy will receive $750 each under a settlement with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The payments, which total more than $4.8 million for National Grid workers affected in the state, will come atop paychecks that have since been reconciled by the company, Schneiderman's office said Thursday. Workers who previously agreed to settlements of $500 in four separate civil suits would receive another $250, officials said.

The payments will go to hourly employees who worked for the company between Nov. 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, the office said, noting the problem over 19 weeks led to some 32,000 underpayments or incorrect wage statements.

National Grid, which operates the Long Island electric grid under contract to the Long Island Power Authority, has more than 2,000 workers on Long Island and 10,000 in the state. A similar settlement was announced Thursday on behalf of workers in Massachusetts by that state's attorney general.

National Grid spokeswoman Jackie Barry confirmed settlement talks with Schneiderman had been ongoing for "a number of months," and said, "We are glad they are now resolved and we can move forward."

Settlement payments will come from company coffers and will not be charged to customers, she stressed.

"As we said from the beginning, we regret the inconvenience and the frustrations these issues have caused our employees," Barry said.

While most of the focus has been on workers who were underpaid, some workers were overpaid as a result of the computer problem, she confirmed. National Grid has decided to allow those workers to keep any overpayments made between system rollout last November and Sept. 30, 2013. Those costs, too, she said, will be paid by the company.

In addition to the payments, the New York agreement requires National Grid to give a full accounting of workers' unpaid and underpaid wages, and explain how each was fixed.

Thousands of National Grid workers from New York to Massachusetts saw their personal finances thrown into chaos after the company decided to go ahead with a large and complicated computer system conversion as Sandy bore down on the Northeast.

"Some of the affected employees in this case reported that they were unable to repair their own homes after the storm because of National Grid's underpayments," said Schneiderman, whose Labor Bureau has been investigating the problem since November. "Finally, National Grid's workers will receive some compensation -- and an explanation -- for the financial hardship they endured in the aftermath of the storm."

The computer problem"caused massive disruption to National Grid's pay and timekeeping system, including nonpayment of wages, nonpayment of overtime and inaccurate wage statements to employees," the attorney general's office said, adding it found the company's attempts to fix the problems were hobbled through November by understaffing.

Don Dailey, business manager for unionized National Grid workers, called the company's decision to roll out a new computer system in the storm's aftermath "highly irresponsible."

"Our hardworking members deserved to be paid correctly and on time," he said in a statement.

"It put an undue burden on myself and my family," National Grid worker Tom Dowling of East Northport said Thursday. "It's a fair settlement for what they put us through."

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