Homeless sue over work compensation
By Tiffanie Reynolds
A homeless woman’s pursuit for pay is taking her all the way to Osceola County Circuit Court this month.
Y Thomas filed a civil lawsuit against Christy James for refusing to pay for her two days of temporary labor. James is the owner of the Pink Flamingo Country Store on W. U.S. Highway 192, which is currently not yet open for business.
Thomas, who said she was homeless, said that James refused to pay for her two days of temporary work when she asked for compensation. Instead, James called the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, which issued Thomas a no trespassing order on her business. Thomas said that James agreed to pay her an hourly wage in exchange for work such as painting interior walls and chairs, general cleaning and washing windows of her business.
That was minutes after a fellow co-worker, DJ Hampton, left the store after asking for compensation for his two days of work. He also is homeless, he said, living in a motel with his family, but left the business when James threatened to call the police. Along with an hourly wage, Hampton said that she also offered to pay for a different hotel room for his family.
“I told her that I needed to be paid because my family was hungry. We’re living in a motel right now. And, we had no money to eat. She was supposed to pay me that day, so my family can eat,” Hampton said.
Since October, James has been posting temporary work ads on craigslist to help prepare the store for business, listing jobs such as putting up shelves and unloading inventory. While it is legal to independently hire people for temporary work, under the Fair Labor Standards Act the employer must pay, at the least, minimum wage, pay for all hours of work and keep a record of the hours worked.
At least for Thomas and Hampton, James said that she never hired them as temporary employees, but wanted to offer some work because both told her they were homeless.
“When she asked me if there was anything she could do, I told her that–yes, I have plenty to do and I’m not open, but you can help me. And that’s when I gave her money for food, things like that. But, there was absolutely no agreement on her getting paid any certain amount, or if she would even get paid,” James said about taking on Thomas for work.
James also said that she wasn’t satisfied with either Thomas’ or Hampton’s work, and called the Sheriff’s Office because Thomas started yelling at her.
James also is the owner of Victoria Grace Funeral Home and Memory Chapel in Bloomfield, Ind. Previously, she was the owner of Awesome Sweet Memories at Christiana’s at Old Town, which closed in September of 2012. As for the Pink Flamingo Country Store, James didn’t have a grand opening date at the time of the interview.
The pre-trial hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 10.