Temp workers say they were bilked by local staffing firm

Employees say paychecks slowed, then stopped coming

A Pleasanton-based staffing company is being criticized by workers who say they're owed money for work they did but were never paid for.

The workers, 12 in Oregon and at least two in California, say they submitted timesheets to Aptitude Staffing Solutions and were repeatedly promised checks but never received them.

Now the case has moved into the courts and has been handed to officials in both states.

Carmen Meuter, a 70-year-old physical therapist who lives in Brentwood, is awaiting a hearing from the state labor board. She's also filed a lawsuit in small claims court in an effort to get the money she says she's owed.

The state Department of Industrial Relations, which handles wage claims, shows Meuter has filed a claim seeking 106 hours in unpaid earnings. Aptitude has another open claim in California from Allison Abels, who has not received her final pay, and also has seven closed claims. State officials could not immediately determine whether Aptitude had won or lost those prior claims.

The California Secretary of State shows two listings for Aptitude Staffing, one filed in 2005 in Walnut Creek and one filed in Pleasanton in 2008. Both list Darren Lawson as owner, although he calls himself vice president of recruiting. Pleasanton city records show that Aptitude Staffing filed a business permit in 2008 but it expired at the end of the year and was never renewed.

"I've served him (Lawson) the papers. We have a date on Aug. 25," Meuter said. "I know he won't show up, so I'll get a judgment."

Meuter said she worked for Aptitude Staffing last year. At first, she was paid. Then, she said, checks started showing up late and finally stopped coming altogether. Meuter said she was never paid for work she did from Nov. 15 until Dec. 31, 2009.

She said she's owed about $4,500 -- and that the company is keeping her from doing any more work for the home health care agency that hired her through Aptitude.

The workers in Oregon have the same story. They were hired by Aptitude to work at Safeway warehouses in Clackamas; again, checks started showing up late, and again, stopped altogether.

Brookes Gulleff says she worked for the Safeway grocery warehouse but was never paid.

"The job was to pay $13.75 an hour and was to have lasted about two and a half weeks, 88 hours total. I was filling in for a girl that was going on vacation," Gulleff said, adding that she was told it was possible to get hired by Safeway directly.

When her first check never arrived, she contacted Aptitude Staffing, which repeatedly claimed it had placed checks in the mail and, twice, promised to send checks by overnight delivery.

When she raised the issue with her manager at Safeway, she was told not to worry.

"She said that I should continue to work my scheduled shift," Gulleff said. "She said, 'Don't worry about it, Safeway's a big company, we'll make sure you get paid.'"

That story changed later, when her manager told her to stop work because Safeway couldn't guarantee her pay. Gulleff said her manager told her she had talked to Safeway's human resources and legal department, and said she didn't think Gulleff would get paid, but that she wouldn't elaborate.

Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill said in an email that Safeway has stopped doing business with Aptitude.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation," Massingill said. "We lived up to our contractual obligation to Aptitude and fully expect Aptitude to fulfill its obligation to its employees by providing full payment for all time worked."

Meanwhile, Gulleff said she's in a bind because she counted on Aptitude's promises to pay.

"I'm about to be evicted from my apartment," she said. "My electricity is about to be shut off. I'm extremely financially strapped. I don't have a dollar to my name."

Gulleff and two other workers have filed claims with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

An Internet search shows 10 employees at Aptitude Staffing, but the firm is operated from a single room in a building at 6200 Stoneridge Mall Road that rents office and receptionist services. Aptitude still has employment ads at several online job sites, but the company's website, which promises "advanced recruiting technology" and "industry-experienced recruiting teams," has links that no longer work.

Gulleff said recruiting in Oregon was largely done by a temp worker at Safeway who would round up his friends to cover shifts. Gulleff said that man is also waiting to get paid.

Aptitude also has created a new Facebook site after its original site filled with complaints about workers not being paid -- complaints made, for the most part, by Gulleff.

Repeated telephone calls to Lawson went unanswered, but Lawson did respond to email inquiries about the workers' claims. He said that "(o)ur records indicate that all candidates hired through Aptitude Staffing Solutions have been paid in full," but noted that he's aware "of a handful of preceding employees who have attempted to produce fraudulent checks and/or timesheets on Aptitude's payroll account."

Labor officials in Oregon and California are investigating the claims, and Meuter's case is set to be heard later this month.

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Like this comment
Posted by Patty Smith
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

This is an outrage! I cannot believe nobody is stepping up for these people! How do company's like Aptitude get away with stealing? this makes no sense and why isn't the law holding them accountable?

Like this comment
Posted by Jenny Manson
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:53 pm

This company sounds so shady I would never work for this kind of a temp agency!! I hope they get shut down and all the people get paid what is due to them plus pain and suffering I mean seriously I work full time and if I all of sudden didn't get my paycheck I would be in trouble! Sounds like these people were actually unemployed and taking any decent job they could find and now have nothing to show for it other than more time lost.

Like this comment
Posted by Daniel Bradford
a resident of Foothill High School
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I feel sorry for all these workers who have been cheated and will have to wait months to get their pay (and may not get paid at all). Like Ms. Meuter, the aggrieved workers can file in small claims court, but getting a judgment for money is a far cry from actually getting paid.

It's a shame that people like Brookes Gulleff work hard to support themselves and then face eviction. If the facts are indeed as these workers present, I think it would be fair to say that the owner, Mr. Lawson, should have to pay restitution more than just the unpaid wages: he should have to pay a stiff fine and punitive damages.

That said, long ago and far away, when I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I signed up with a temporary placement agency that sent me here and there. I worked as an assistant to a Hallmark Card executive (and boy, did I want his job, $300k a year and I barely saw him do any work), in a warehouse, in an accounting firm, a mental health clinic (where my very first call that I answered was from a woman who was barricaded inside her bathroom because her husband had gone off his meds and was threatening to kill her...the rest of the two weeks was easy after that first day!), an insurance firm, and a bookstore. I was offered permanent jobs at two of the places where I worked (Hallmark and the insurance firm). Temporary agencies are a good way to explore a variety of different work environments, make some contacts, and keep yourself working when unemployment rates are high, and most of them are very reputable and honest.

Before hiring on with a temp agency, I'd say people need to investigate them a bit, see if they are registered with the Better Business Bureau and check the consumer affairs office to see if any complaints have been filed against them--and also Google them and check their Facebook account!

Like this comment
Posted by Brookes G.
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I just wanted to note that Darren Lawson has never been able to show me any sort of proof that he had mailed me any of my paychecks. I have a locked mailbox and am the only one with a key. I have also spoken with my mail carrier and the post office and they show no record at all. To date, Darren Lawson of Aptitude Staffing Solutions has not paid me a dime for the work I did and he was paid for. He is still refusing my phone calls, texts, and emails. If he was legit, wouldn't he call back and work out his problems? Also, why is he performing business with an expired business license? Also, to Daniel Bradford, thanks for the comment. I did do a Google search on A.S.S. before I went to work and I was unable to find much, but I thought since my work was at Safeway, there shouldn't be a problem. I was obviously wrong about that, and that is why I am posting what happened to me where ever I can so I can help prevent this from happening to anyone else.

Like this comment
Posted by Safeway Employee
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

Safeway should step up and pay these people NOW!

Unfortunately, this is no surprise. At store level it can take weeks, even months to receive wages shorted on paychecks. Management always has some lame excuse and/or passes the buck as far as who's responsible, blaming someone in the payroll loop other than themselves, or just flat out lie saying the fixed it when they most certainly did no such thing! This is far more serious, as having a shift or two shorted is nothing compared to the blatant theft of services Safeway; (true, it's the Agency's fault first and foremost, but Safeway has an obligation and responsibility both morally and ethically to pay these people) has committed against these employees.

More and more I'm ashamed to even work for this company. Bragging of their charity fund-raising, but stealing from their very own employees. Just one of many disgusting actions of Safeway.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Ridgeview Commons

on Jun 5, 2017 at 10:11 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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