SeaTac Parking Lot Company Fires Workers Who Complained About Not Getting $15/Hour
Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the letter from the city of SeaTac only advised the company to review the ordinance to see whether it applies to Extra Car instead of telling the company outright that it needs to comply.
Several parking lot workers in SeaTac say their employer fired them after they filed complaints about not getting the new $15-an-hour minimum wage. They say their boss let them go out of retaliation.
Thirteen workers at Extra Car Airport Parking in SeaTac submitted complaints to the city earlier this year, saying their boss is not paying them the $15 an hour that they’re due under a voter-approved law that went into effect on Jan. 1. Instead, workers there got a 32-cent raise. Many now make $10.32 an hour.
Now, five of those 13 people who filed the complaints have been fired. One of them is Lou Lehman, who worked part-time for Extra Car. She says after filing her complaint and after speaking with KPLU for a previous story, her boss pulled her aside.
"She said, `Um, I need to talk to you. Can you work full-time? Are you able to work full-time?' I said, `No,'" Lehman said. "I mean, they know I can’t. This is my second job. She said, `OK, we’re going to have to let you go. We’re going to only have full-time people.' Boom. That was it."
But Lehman says she thinks the firing was in retaliation; she knows other people who are still working there part-time. Lehman says her boss singled out workers who spoke up about not getting the raise, and she says they’re going to fight it.
"We’re not just going to let it go," Lehman said. "We’re not just going to go, 'OK, they won."'
Extra Car owner Michael Vergillo said three of the workers were fired either for safety reasons or for violating company policy. The other two were let go because they didn't want to work full-time. He wouldn't comment beyond that.
On Feb. 19th, the city of SeaTac sent a letter to Extra Car, along with the workers' complaints.
"We understand that it is the intent of your business to comply with with all federal, state and local laws," City Manager Todd Cutts wrote in the letter. "Please be aware that the City of SeaTac has not investigated this complaint and therefore is not currently planning any further action. However, we would encourage you to review the code and frequently asked questions regarding the new employment standards for certain industries. Information is available on our web site at EmploymentStandards.CityofSeaTac.com to determine whether it applies to your business."
Cutts also wrote that the city reserves the right to audit payroll records to ensure compliance and that retaliation against an employee for filing a complaint is prohibited.
But the new $15-an-hour ordinance doesn’t require the city to enforce the law.
Lehman says the workers may file a lawsuit. She says she would at least like to recoup her back pay that she believes she's entitled to, which she estimates totals about $1,000.