Brooklyn, NY – Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages are at the center of a years’ old court case as teachers at a Brooklyn girls’ school allege that they are owed salaries from the year 2010.
The dispute stems from a reorganization at Brooklyn’s Shulamith School for Girls which six years ago split into two different branches, one in Midwood and one in the Five Towns, as reported by The Jewish Week.
Experiencing financial difficulties at the time of the split which also involved the sale of the Brooklyn campus, the school suspended pay to 80 teachers for an eight month period, leaving educators to deal with crushing financial burdens.
“Two friends of mine lost their houses,” said science teacher Shoshana Kimmel, one of 29 teachers who is named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school. “One teacher wasn’t able to pay for her child’s wedding. The few of us who had pension plans lost those.”
The staff’s health insurance plan was discontinued without notice, said Kimmel, who added that the school continued to deduct monthly premiums from teachers’ salaries.
The school promised teachers that they would be receive back pay once the sale of the building was completed, a process that ultimately took four years.
In the interim, teachers said they continued to report to work daily.
“We didn’t want to take it out on the kids by now showing up to class, or not filing their grades,” explained English teacher Barbara Stern, another plaintiff in the case.
Stern said that teachers were afraid to speak out publicly about the problem, concerned about retribution from the school. A letter faxed to teachers in May, 2011 criticized teachers for taking their case to a secular court instead of going to a beis din.
Teachers were hopeful that their situation would improve when a judge approved a $550,000 settlement in April, an amount that included the salaries owed as well as accrued interest, statutory penalties and four years of legal fees.
Shulamith rejected the settlement with attorney Robert Tolchin saying that the school owed only the unpaid salaries and would not be extorted by the teachers or cover legal costs that he described as “excessive.”
Tolchin said that the teachers in question were paid several weeks ago, with $312,000, including payroll taxes, deposited directly into plaintiffs’ accounts.
But teachers said that they received no prior notice of the payout and that the amount, which did not cover any of the associated costs of the years’ old debt, fell short of the salaries owed.
A motion to enforce the April settlement was to be argued in Brooklyn Supreme Court last week, but those legal proceedings have been rescheduled at the request of the school’s lawyers.