RU Medical Staffers Bring “Wage Theft” Complaint to City

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Chirag Patel, a cardiology fellow, speaks during the Feb. 1 City Council meeting.
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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Doctors, interns and employees of Rutgers University are still trying to get paid for one week of work last year.

Four unions have filed federal complaints against Rutgers, alleging that the school failed to pay more than $500,000 in wages last fall after moving thousands of workers to a new payroll system. The affected employees worked for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School before a 2012 state law brought both institutions under the Rutgers umbrella.

Members of the Committee of Interns and Residents took to last night’s City Council meeting to ask local officials to look into the matter under New Brunswick’s anti-wage-theft law.

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“Everyone of us understands that sometimes computers malfunction. We are willing to work with Rutgers,” said Chirag Patel, a cardiology fellow, speaking on behalf of 450 union members. “However, it’s been four months.”

For its part, Rutgers has said it’s working with the unions to pay the employees and looks forward to “having all outstanding issues resolved in a way that is appropriate, timely and beneficial.”

More than 5,000 employees, from senior doctors to low-ranking beginners, haven’t received the week’s pay, Patel said.

For junior-level staffers, he added, every penny is important. They work for low wages, often putting in 80 to 100 hours per week.

Manisha Reddy, a cardiologist who will complete her training by July, said timing is a factor. Some fellows have plans to move on to new hospitals, and they worry how that might affect a possible resolution.

“We’re not asking for more money,” she said. “We’re just asking for money that we’re owed.”

This isn’t the only compensation problem that Rutgers has had in recent years, said David Hughes, an anthropologist and president of the university’s faculty union. He pointed to news reports of the school being late in paying vendors.

“I urge you to understand that these are people who work for the residents of this city,” Hughes told the council. “Every family depends on these workers, and they’re getting stiffed for no good reason.”

Council President Glenn Fleming noted that the city does indeed have a wage-theft ordinance on the books. He said the city “takes wage theft seriously,” as it has happened in New Brunswick before.

The city intends to “take a look” at the issue, Fleming said.

The council adopted its wage-theft ordinance in December 2013, which denies licenses to business owners who commit wage theft, according to the city. New Brunswick was the first in the state to enact such a law.

Since then, the ordinance has reportedly helped workers to obtain withheld paychecks.

Rutgers is the largest employer in New Brunswick, Hughes noted.

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