No Paychecks for Workers

No Paychecks for Workers
By: Arnold Wyrick

Benton, Il. --The holidays can be stressful enough with out any major problems, but add to the mix paychecks that can't be cashed, and that took the cheer out of many employees holidays at a Southern Illinois ambulance company.
The problem for the workers at Mercy Regional Ambulance in Benton, Illinois started on December 22nd, that's when several of them went to the bank to cash their payroll checks.  But instead of getting cash, they were told there wasn't enough money in the company's account.
"I lost my power, can't pay rent, had to borrow money from parents to get medication, and take my husband to the doctor.  And then raided their freezer for groceries," says an employee of Mercy who doesn't want to be identified out of fear of being fired for talking about the situation.
On Wednesday, Heartland News reporter Arnold Wyrick went with one of the company's employees to the State Bank of Whittington, in Benton to see if they could cash their check.
Mercy Regional Ambulance employee checks are written on an account at the bank.
But within minutes of presenting the check to the bank teller, the employee was told there wasn't enough money in the account.  And returned the check to the employee stamped with an insufficient funds notice, on the check.
"This isn't the first time, it's not the second time, it's not the third time.  This has been happening several times before since 2004," an employee said.
"I have three checks from them that I haven't been able to get any money out of," said another employee.
"So I quit my job this week.  And I'm hiring a lawyer."
Heartland News contacted Clayton Hobbs, CEO of Mercy Regional Ambulance, and asked him about the payroll check problems.
"As far as I am aware all employees in the Benton office have been paid to date.  And we have not heard anything about any insufficient fund checks," Hobbs said.
But try telling that to the several employees who are still waiting to cash their checks from December 22nd.  And some are even in a worse situation.  They deposited their checks into their personal accounts.
"I know some people that are facing hundreds of dollars in check charges from their banks for bouncing checks.  And payday is supposed to be again on Friday.  So who knows if we'll get paid then?"
Mercy Regional Ambulance employs nearly 200 people throughout the Heartland.  Approximately 40 employees work out of the Benton, Illinois office.