Sunday, March 17, 2019

Oshkosh homeowners on Hazel Street will have to pay $500,000 in special assessments after council vote

Source: Google Street View

Part of Hazel Street will be rebuilt, and adjacent property owners will pay for it, starting later this year.

By Joseph Schulz

The Oshkosh Common Council approved special assessments on March 12 of more than half a million dollars for road work on Hazel Street, from Washington Avenue to Irving Avenue.

The half-mile stretch where construction will take place will cost 37 property owners $512,000 in special assessment fees, according to city engineering estimates.

The assessments will pay for paving, sidewalks, water lines, stormwater drains and sanitary sewers. The construction will close Hazel Street for an unspecified amount of time later this year.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Oshkosh Defense is accused of rounding time records to cut pay, reduce overtime in federal lawsuit

Photo by Miles Maguire
Oshkosh Corp. is in the process of a building a new headquarters at the old Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course.
By Miles Maguire
Oshkosh Defense workers are pressing a federal lawsuit that alleges the company illegally rounds time-clock records to cut compensation, especially overtime pay.

Workers argue that since October 2015 the company has used a time clock policy in which “hourly employees’ start and end times for their shifts were rounded in 15-minute increments.”

The problem, the lawsuit alleges, is the rounding did not occur “to the nearest 15-minute interval despite the fact that employees performed compensable work during the period of time which was rounded.” The company is accused of instead rounding in a way that reduced the recorded work time of employees.

“As an example, under Oshkosh Defense’s impermissible time clock rounding policy, if an employee punched in 5:50 a.m., Oshkosh Defense would round up to 6:00 a.m.,” the lawsuit says.

“Likewise … if an employee punched out at 2:44 p.m., Oshkosh Defense would round
down to 2:30 p.m.,” it says. Employees doing “compensable work past the end of their shift” would not get paid for it unless a full 15 minutes had passed.

The lawsuit, filed in October, alleges that this policy has caused a loss of overtime pay at premium rates. It goes back three years because that is how far the Fair Labor Standards Act allows for accusations of willful conduct.

For its part, “Oshkosh Defense denies that it has an impermissible time clock rounding
policy and alleges it does not round employees’ start times, end times or work time,” the company says in a legal filing.

“Oshkosh Defense admits that, if an employee punched in at 5:50 a.m., it would disregard the ten minutes from 5:50 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., but only if that employee’s scheduled shift started at 6:00 a.m. and the employee performed no work from 5:50 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.,” the company says.

The lawsuit was brought by Farrah Marquette, a Neenah resident whose Facebook page says that she used to work as a welder and now runs a machine tool called a press brake. She referred questions to her attorneys.

Although Marquette filed the suit individually, roughly two dozen additional Oshkosh Defense employees have since joined the suit. Her law firm, Hawks Quindel, has begun a social media campaign urging other Oshkosh Defense workers to join the case.

Summer Murshid, one of Marquette’s lawyers, said the number of plaintiffs could eventually reach into the hundreds. The lawsuit asks for the case to be certified as a class action.

We have requested a class list from Oshkosh,” Murshid said. “They are in control of the information regarding how many current and former employees were subject to the rounding policies at issue in this case.”

Oshkosh Defense, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp., specializes in making military trucks.

In general terms the case seems similar to a 2016 lawsuit against Pierce Manufacturing, an Oshkosh subsidiary, in which workers won a $5 million settlement. But the specifics of the Oshkosh Defense complaint are different.

In the Pierce case, workers said the company had not paid them for part of their scheduled breaks, and the company acknowledged this problem and made schedule adjustments, according to court records.

“Because of the ongoing nature of the case, we are unable to comment,” Katie Hoxtell, a corporate spokeswoman, said regarding the current lawsuit.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Oshkosh foster home fell through regulatory cracks

Source: Estimates included in budget proposals from Department of Human Services.
By Miles Maguire
The Oshkosh house that prosecutors say was the site of criminal neglect of three teenage boys appears to have fallen through the regulatory cracks of both state and county child welfare agencies.

The private company that operates the foster home, where the teens were allegedly forced to use buckets for toilets, has a longstanding relationship with Winnebago County’s Department of Human Services and has been one of its largest vendors of specialized treatment for troubled youth, earning an estimated $855,000 over the last five years.

But because of the way that foster care is administered in Wisconsin the residence, on West 11th Avenue, was not the direct responsibility of either state or county agencies. It apparently was never inspected before the abuse complaint surfaced.

The Oshkosh facility was operated by a for profit company called Macht Village Programs Inc. Macht Village is licensed as a “child placing agency,” or CPA, by the state and is empowered to issue licenses to foster homes.  

“The Department of Children and Families licensed this CPA agency; however, DCF does not directly license the agency’s foster homes,” Gina Paige, DCF’s  deputy communications director, wrote in an email.

While the county does license some foster homes on its own, the Oshkosh home “was not licensed by us, and we have no oversight authority to that home,” said Bill Topel, Winnebago County’s human services director. “That is the responsibility of the organization that licensed them and the state of Wisconsin.”

But the state disclaimed responsibility. “DCF has not visited the [Oshkosh] location as it is licensed by Macht Village Programs and not DCF,” Paige said.

A person who answered the phone at Macht Village said no one was immediately available to comment.

According to Paige, the two foster parents at the Oshkosh house had their license revoked by Macht Village on Dec. 28. Eleven days earlier police had visited the house and found the thermostat set to 57 degrees, a smell “of urine and feces” and evidence that toilet buckets from the house had been emptied out in the yard.