Lawsuit targets Opportunities Inc., alleges non-payment of wages

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A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Miller County, Ark., accuses Opportunities, Inc. of requiring residential house managers to work off-the-clock.

Martha Witherspoon of Texarkana, Texas, and Gwendolyn Crockett of Little River County, Ark., allege violations of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act in a complaint filed on their behalf by the Sandford Law Firm of Little Rock, Ark. Opportunities is a non-profit agency that serves disabled children and adults.

Witherspoon worked from April 2013 to June 2014 as an Opportunities house manager in a group home serving disabled adults. According to the suit, Witherspoon’s shift required her to work from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. four days a week.

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“Defendant required Witherspoon to clock out at 10 p.m. each shift, remain at the workplace and ready to work throughout the night, and clock in again at 6 a.m.,” according to the complaint.

Witherspoon alleges the needs of residents often meant she worked without pay and in excess of 40 hours. Employers are required to pay hourly workers at time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

Crockett worked from April 2014 to April 2015 as an Opportunities house manager in a group home that served up to 12 developmentally disabled adults at a time. Crockett was scheduled to work from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Crockett claims she was required to clock out at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights but that she had to remain at the home, ready to work, throughout the night. Crockett claims she was often awakened by residents needing her assistance during the night.

Crockett alleges that not only did she rarely get more than five hours of uninterrupted sleep while working for Opportunities, she was not paid for work performed between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. at the home.

Witherspoon and Crockett are asking that Opportunities be ordered to pay for the time they allegedly worked off-the-clock plus interest, attorney fees and court costs. The women also want the court to assess punitive damages meant to deter the agency from similar conduct in the future.

The case is pending before Miller County Circuit Judge Carlton Jones.

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