National Grid underpaid workers after Hurricane Sandy, ordered to make up the difference plus $750 each
Monday, September 30, 2013 - 9:03 am

National Grid has agreed to pay workers what they owe them plus $750 per employee after the company allegedly failed to fairly compensate workers in the months after Hurricane Sandy.

The agreement, announced by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, comes after an investigation revealed that the utility company, which distributes electricity in St. Lawrence County, “failed to properly pay its New York workers as required under state and federal law in the months after Hurricane Sandy.”

The agreement also requires National Grid to pay another $750 to every hourly employee who worked for the company between Nov. 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. The total in additional monies, going to 6,500 hourly workers, is more than $4.8 million.

“Some of the affected employees in this case reported that they were unable to repair their own homes after the storm because of National Grid's underpayments,” said Schneiderman. “National Grid's workers will receive some compensation --- and an explanation --- for the financial hardship they endured in the aftermath of the storm.”

The agreement with the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau requires National Grid to provide an accounting to employees summarizing unpaid and underpaid wages, and to explain the date and manner in which payment problems -- which the company attributes to computer glitches -- have been fixed.

In addition, the agreement requires National Grid to provide the Attorney General's Office with a report summarizing causes of systemic payroll failures, a description of steps taken to remedy the problems, a summary of lessons learned and a description of measures National Grid will take to prevent any future recurrence.

More than 6,500 hourly employees who worked for National Grid in New York State did not receive their full pay on time, the attorney general found. For 19 weeks, there were approximately 32,000 incidents in which employees were underpaid and provided with inaccurate wage statements.

National Grid's failure to properly pay employees was the result of the company's conversion to a new computer system, which involved changes to its time-keeping and payroll systems. The attorney general’s office determined that for more than a month after this disruption, the staffing resources devoted to fixing the system remained insufficient.

After Sandy hit the New York area, National Grid employees worked greatly expanded hours. Many workers were underpaid or not paid at all. They experienced disruptions in direct bank deposits of their wages. Among other problems, certain established payroll deductions did not take place for some, resulting in employees defaulting on child support garnishments and other legal obligations. The non-payment and underpayment of earned wages had serious consequences for many National Grid employees, some of whom reported to the attorney general that they were left unable to pay rent, repair their homes and pay for other basic necessities.

In addition to the OAG investigation, four private lawsuits concerning the underpayments were filed in New York State.