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Lawsuit accuses Opportunities, Inc. of wage violation

by Lynn LaRowe | July 14, 2016 at 5:33 a.m. | Updated July 14, 2016 at 5:33 a.m.

Texarkana nonprofit Opportunities, Inc. is accused of violating Arkansas' Minimum Wage Act in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in Miller County, Ark., circuit court.

Opportunities provides services to infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and adults with special needs. According to the organization's website, it operates two group homes for developmentally disabled adults.

A spokesperson for Opportunities was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

The suit alleges that two women who worked as house managers were required to work off the clock and were not paid time-and-a-half when they labored more than 40 hours per week. The suit names Texarkana Special Education Center, Inc. doing business as Opportunities, Inc. as defendant.

Martha Witherspoon of Texarkana, Texas, allegedly worked as house manager at an Opportunities residential site between April 2013 and June 2014. According to the complaint, Witherspoon was scheduled to work from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. four days a week.

"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.," the complaint states.

The complaint alleges that Witherspoon often worked in excess of 40 hours per week and was not paid overtime.

Gwendolyn Crockett of Little River County, Ark., claims she worked as a house manager from April 2014 to April 2015 and that she was typically scheduled to work from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday at an Opportunities residential setting. Crockett alleges she was required to clock out at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and to remain on site and ready to work throughout the night.

As the only employee on site during the shifts she worked, Crockett often had to get up during the night and aid residents. As many as 12 developmentally disabled adults lived in the home, the complaint states.

"Because of the sleep interruptions occasioned by defendant's customers' needs, Crockett rarely, if ever, got as much as five hours of uninterrupted sleep per night," the complaint alleges.

Crockett complains that she often worked more than 40 hours during her weekend shift and was paid for no more than 40 hours or was paid for "far fewer hours than she actually worked."

The suit, filed by attorneys Steve Rauls and Josh Sanford of the Little Rock based Sanford Law Firm, alleges violations of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act and asks for a declaratory judgment that Opportunities' practices violate the law. The women are seeking payment for unpaid overtime wages, interest, attorney fees and court costs.

Also requested is a judgment for punitive damages. According to the complaint, Opportunities administrators knew or should have known the law obliges payment to hourly employees at time-and-a-half when hours worked exceed 40 in a week.

Opportunities has not yet been served with a copy of the complaint. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carlton Jones of the Eighth Judicial District South, which includes Miller County.

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