|By Carol Scott, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 17, 2005 - WILLIAMSBURG -- More than 40 workers from Mongolia, Slovakia, Russia and Ukraine are suing Fairfield Resorts Inc. and five companies that staff the resorts, saying they are owed three years in overtime pay for regularly working up to 85 hours per week at three Williamsburg-area resorts.
Workers had to pay a deposit sometimes $300, sometimes two weeks of wages to companies owned by Bob Nunnery and Michailo Sandulyak for permission to work at Fairfield, according to the suit.
Workers also weren't paid for three works of work in the spring, according to the suit. Fairfield and five subcontracting companies have broken federal labor laws, wrongly required a pre-employment deposit and threatened workers who sought legal help, according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed August 5 in the Norfolk division of the U.S. District Court and was updated Wednesday. The suit asks for an unspecified amount for emotional distress for 44 workers 14 of which are named in the suit.
Attorney Avery "Sandy" Waterman, representing the workers, said he did not know the immigration status of all of the workers but knew some were legally working in the United States. The suit applies to all the workers regardless of their immigration status, he said.
"The wage and hour laws protect anybody who works," he said Wednesday. "[The law says] that employers shouldn't hire people without papers. Secondly, it says if an employer goes ahead and hires somebody without papers and gets the benefit of the sweat off their back, they've got to pay them."
Some of the workers in the lawsuit still work at the resorts in the Williamsburg area, but some have been fired. They were paid $6.50 or $7 per hour as housekeepers or landscapers, according to the suit. Because they have not been paid overtime for three years, they now legally can ask for twice their overtime pay for those extra hours, Waterman said. Workers put in an average of 61 hours a week, although at least one of the workers routinely worked 85 hours a week, according to the suit.
Waterman said many workers were recruited by Sandulyak, a Ukrainian who has a home in North Carolina. According to the suit, Sandulyak would collect a deposit from the workers in exchange for finding them work. After that, Robert Nunnery, who owns two local businesses, HK Services and Petrochemical and Consulting, oversaw the workers at the Fairfield resorts in Williamsburg, the suit says.
Nunnery said Thursday evening that he was a subcontractor, not an employee, of Fairfield. The suit says Nunnery was hired by Fairfield to supervise immigrant laborers and that the workers were employees of Fairfield.
When contacted Monday about an earlier version of the lawsuit that included 13 plaintiffs who are still named in the revised lawsuit, Fairfield spokesman Jim Cohn said he didn't have a copy of the suit but had a list of the plaintiffs' names.
"We have no record of them ever being employees of Fairfield resorts," Cohn said.
"The only way [Fairfield] can float this thing is to assert that everybody at every tier is a contractor," Waterman said in response. "You can self-servingly label yourself a contractor, but they are not conducting the business like contractors." The suit says the immigrant workers wore Fairfield uniforms and were assigned work and schedules by Fairfield employees.
Along with Orlando-based Fairfield Resorts, the following are named in the suit:
--Ambassador Hospitality Solutions, Inc. and Proline Management Corp, both in St. Charles, Mo.
--Carolina Janitorial, Inc. of Wake Forest, N.C., and owner Sandulyak
--HK Services and Petrochemical and Consulting and Nunnery, the owner of both.
Waterman said Sandulyak is a Ukrainian national who travels between Europe and the U.S., recruiting workers for American businesses.
Robert Nunnery said Thursday evening that he had no comment. Michailo Sandulyak's mother said from his North Carolina residence that Sandulyak was in Europe and would not be back for three or four weeks.
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