116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - The U.S. Department of Labor has started a wage investigation into the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center, even as the hotel's owner says employees have been paid.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has opened the investigation, but a spokesman declined to give further details. The Wage and Hour Division often starts investigations after it receives complaints from employees related to their pay, according to the department's website.
One current and one former employee of the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center told The Gazette the hotel has had trouble paying their wages the past six weeks.
'I never had a problem since I started, up until the last six weeks. The first paycheck was late, the second paycheck bounced - not for me, but for 26 other employees - and this check (from Nov. 17) we just haven't seen,” said Jaimie Hootman, 32, who has worked at the Clarion since August and currently is assistant head housekeeper.
Hootman said she has four children and is a one-income household. She recently sold her truck to help make ends meet and is owed between $1,400 and $1,500, she said.
Clarion employees are 'struggling, they're hurting and at this point everybody is lost and doesn't know whether to stick it out or quit and try and find another job right before Christmas,” Hootman said.
Tiffany Kalavessis, 25, said she quit her job as assistant head housekeeper at the Clarion in early November when the problems started. She said her bank account became overdrawn by $800 after she cashed two bad checks from the hotel.
'I just hope everybody gets what they are owed and I hope my bank account gets paid back because I worked hard for that money and for it just to bounce and for me to have to pay that money back, it's ridiculous,” Kalavessis said.
Iowa's Division of Labor also has received five calls from Clarion employees who said they have not been paid, Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro told The Gazette. Mauro said those employees were advised to submit wage claim forms to the division.
'From the wage-claim form and the owners response to the wage claim form, we try to make a determination of what is owed to the employee,” Mauro said.
Mauro said his agency would work the federal department on its investigation.
In an email Wednesday, the hotel's owner and managing director, Hassan Hussein, denied employees had not been paid.
He said 'disgruntled employees” have gone to the media with stories that are 'not true.” He said 'employees have been paid all the way until the current pay period.”
Asked to clarify, Hussein said the hotel switched bank accounts after a previous pay period when checks given to employees did not clear. He said he 'personally took an extra step and paid them from my personal account.”
Hussein acquired the Clarion Hotel, 525 33rd Ave. SW, in March through his Virginia-based company, HRDMM Hospitality Services. At the time, Hussein said his company would renovate the 156-room hotel.
He said he was informed of the Labor Department investigation last Friday.
'I know employees can get upset as the holidays are around the corner, I will be personally giving a holiday bonus to each employee right before Christmas,” Hussein said in the email.
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