News

Workers without wages

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Sequim Sandwich Shop, at the corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street, seems to be closed but not before causing some controversy with local businesses and employees.

 

Three workers have placed successful wage payment claims with Washington Department of Labor and Industries against owner John Junell for improper payments.

 

Ryan Elmer, 32; Kayla Forshaw, 19; and Breanna Krumpe, 19, worked for either the shop or Junell’s previous business, Sequim Family Farms.

 

Forms provided by L&I confirm Elmer received $350 for working Sept. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2009 but is still owed $1,650 with late penalties continuing to increase the amount 1 percent a month.

 

Krumpe worked at the shop May 24 to July 18, 2010 and is owed just over $900.

 

A penalty fee of $1,000 was given to Junell for being “a repeat willful violator of wage payment requirements.”

 

Forshaw was paid $431.78 in due wages in late August after filling out L&I paperwork.

 

The three employees plus five additional former employees who have not filed with L&I told the Gazette that Junell didn’t fill out appropriate paperwork such as W-2 forms, often paid employees partially and in cash or personal checks without pay stubs, argued with employees about wages and wrote checks that bounced for workers.

 

Krumpe said that Junell gave different reasons for not paying her: He forgot his checks, forgot to calculate tax withholding, needed to buy supplies instead, promised to pay the next day, asked if she “was in a crucial financial situation to need money right now” and refused to address the situation.

 

Forshaw said he told her he was “too stressed and busy to do paychecks,” and she and Elmer were both told there wasn’t enough money.


Due to lack of documentation, Elmer said he had a difficult time filing unemployment and his taxes were a mess.

Shop opens

Junell, a former Sequim schoolteacher and owner of Sequim Family Farms, opened the lot shop in late spring 2009 as a sandwich delivery business. He attributes the Sequim shop idea to Elmer, who suggested the location would bring in more customers.

 

Junell said in a January 2010 e-mail, “I told Ryan that things would be sporadic with the switch, and paychecks would be delayed until the new store was up and running. Ryan agreed and understood. Today, I am faced with Ryan quitting, no cash flow and a partial store front.”

 

In that e-mail, Junell told L&I he anticipated his cash flow would begin in February, allowing him to repay Elmer.

 

Several employees and months later, Junell discovered his employees had quit, and the shop failed to open on Oct. 30. The shop hasn’t opened since. It had an “On vacation, back in a week” sign dated 11-5-10 posted on the storefront before someone took it down and posted Christmas paper in the windows.

 

The city of Sequim confirmed that Gull Industries Inc., owners of the property where the Sandwich Shop’s former building is, has rented the lot to Viaggio Pizza, a traveling pizza shop out of Bremerton.

 

Sequim Family Farms has outstanding debt worth more than $3,000 for advertising and bakery bills more than a year old.

 

While researching the cases, the Gazette received 134 pages in L&I requests and responses toward Junell.

Owner’s response

When asked about not paying his employees, Junell told the Gazette he was on good terms with L&I and hasn’t received any new documentation.

 

The cases are closed now, though, and Junell cannot dispute them because he was given multiple chances to prove that his employees did or did not work the hours and that he paid them in full before penalties were put in place.

 

Elaine Fischer, spokesman for L&I, said if a business pays the claim, then penalties can be erased.

“We do make every effort to contact the employer by mail and by phone,” Fischer said.

 

“Our goal is to get the owner to pay and we do our best.”

 

Junell denied knowing Krumpe despite documentation from L&I and a bounced check from Junell to Krumpe proving the opposite.

 

Krumpe, now a college student, felt Junell took advantage of the fact she had never worked before.

 

“I didn’t really have a job before and I didn’t think anything was wrong,” Krumpe said.

 

As of Tuesday, Dec. 7, Elmer and Krumpe said they have not been paid.

 

 “It’s a difficult situation,” Fischer said.

 

“There’s no easy answer. We can’t swoop in and get the money for them.”

 

Late penalties still are gathering on Junell’s outstanding employee wages.

 

Former employees have up to three years from their last paycheck to file for unclaimed wages with L&I.

Elmer said he chose L&I over small claims court because he feels the agency has more power and teeth to lead Junell to pay him.

 

“I wouldn’t let anyone I know or love or I met in passing work for that guy,” Elmer said.

 

“I’ll wait as long as it takes to get him to pay me. I might as well let the government use their vast

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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