Pleasanton Weekly

News - August 13, 2010

Company accused of not paying workers has history of such claims

State shows judgments going back to 2006

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton staffing company accused of swindling temp workers in Oregon and California has judgments totaling more than $12,600 against it going back to 2006, state records show.

Aptitude Staffing Solutions of Pleasanton has a total of nine cases at the state Department of Industrial Relations, which handles wage claims. Seven of those case have been resolved: The company made a payment of $458 to Christopher Sandaine on an outstanding judgment in August 2006; Aptitude was ordered in January 2007 to pay $3,300 to Yameko Frederick, including $2,982 under labor code section 203 which, according to state code, "occurs when an employer intentionally fails to pay wages to an employee when those wages are due."

In March 2008, Carrie Martin received a judgment from the labor board against Aptitude totaling $1076 under the same code section, and in December 2009, Aptitude was ordered to pay Cynthia Lopez $7797. This included unpaid wages, a section 203 judgment and $1,840 in "other compensation," although the reason for that additional compensation is not spelled out in state documents. One case was dismissed because the worker making the claim did not appear, and information on the other case was not available from the labor board.

Aptitude Staffing Solutions, owned and operated by Darren Lawson, according to state records, also has two pending cases in California and an investigation has begun in Oregon over claims from temp workers hired by him to work at two Safeway warehouses.

One of the workers in Oregon, David McMullen, said he has two main concerns about Aptitude. McMullen, who said he's owed $563, is worried about taxes on the wages he earned.

"He (Lawson) was taking out taxes, but what if he wasn't paying them?" McMullen said. He also said that some of the workers in Oregon aren't filing claims.

"It's too much of a hassle," McMullen said. "I just think the guy should be held accountable."

The firm has operated in Walnut Creek and in Pleasanton, where Aptitude's business license expired nearly two years ago.

Aptitude claims 10 employees in one online site, while at another site, it claims 600 employees. Meanwhile, Aptitude operates out of a single rented office at a local firm specializing in providing office space and receptionist services.

Aptitude no longer seems to be posting jobs on the Internet, although some lingering positions -- some as late as mid-July -- are still on several popular sites for jobseekers.

The company also claims on its LinkedIn site that it began operations in 2001, although its owner, Lawson, claims in his online resume that he worked for internationally known recruiter Robert Half at that time.

In an online bio, Lawson claims to provide "services to Fortune 500 companies and representing top talent nationwide," and says he wants to provide "satisfaction and fulfillment of executing a placement that contributes to the well-being of all parties involved."

Although Aptitude promises "advanced recruiting technology," McMullen said that technology was mostly last-minute calls from Lawson.

"He'd call me with hours that he needed filled. I called around and put people in those spots," McMullen said.

McMullen said he thinks Safeway -- which last week said it had severed relations with Aptitude -- should be held accountable, too.

"They knew we weren't getting paid," he said. "They allowed it."

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