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Long Island

Union sues National Grid, says pay overdue

National Grid workers assess roads that remain completely

National Grid workers assess roads that remain completely blocked in Lattingtown so LIPA will be able to access power lines in the area. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A union official representing 2,600 electric and gas workers on Long Island has filed a lawsuit against National Grid, charging the company unjustly enriched itself by unlawfully withholding wages after a computer foul-up bungled thousands of employee paychecks.

The suit, filed last week in State Supreme Court in Suffolk, seeks to reclaim wages, overtime and expense payments lost after the company's conversion to a new computer system widely disrupted and reduced worker paychecks. Another suit by union members from upstate and other National Grid operating regions has been filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

In a companywide email last week, National Grid USA president Tom King took "full responsibility" for the "painful, unthinkable" problem, which he said the company hopes to largely clear up before year's end.

But plaintiff Don Daley Jr., business manager for Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said problems persist. Daley said most of the Hauppauge local's members have been impacted by the problem, which the suit calls "systemic wage abuse."

"There's such a variety of problems," Daley said. "Things are continually going wrong." The union has already filed complaints with the New York attorney general, the state Public Service Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor, he said.

The suit alleges violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and several sections of state labor law.

Workers put in 12- to 16-hour days, sometimes daily, during the Sandy restoration, the suit says. But the company "failed to properly pay wages at the appropriate rates." Lost wages for workers have caused "significant damages" to members.

"We want to make sure people get paid correctly," Daley said. Members are "extremely frustrated and justifiably so."

In addition to receiving their proper pay, which included large amounts of overtime for work during superstorm Sandy, the union is seeking a permanent injunction to make sure the problem doesn't happen again.

National Grid didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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