Former People Against Rape employees file suit

Three former People Against Rape employees filed law suits against the organization and its board members, claiming they failed to pay them following their dismissals.

The suit was filed in Charleston County Circuit Court on Nov. 29 and alleges PAR and its board of directors did not “properly pay” the employees that they “had no choice but to lay off” following the discovery of mismanaged funds at the organization, according to court records.

The layoffs came amidst a storm of troubles for the organization, which had its funding stripped from two state agencies following PAR board members’ report of missing funds.

The suits alleges all three women were not properly paid what they were owed within 48 hours of being let go, their attorney Michael Whitsitt said.

“When someone is not paid what they are owed, and are relying on that pay, the South Carolina legislature has written laws to protect people from being in that situation,” Whitsitt said.

PAR’s board director, Michael Roach, said they had not been informed about the suit and released a statement to the Post and Courier which partly reads: “We are saddened to learn of this action because we have gone to great lengths to keep all of our former employees fully informed about our current financial status (i.e. PAR has no funds with which to pay them) and exactly what we are doing to obtain sufficient funds to pay them what we owe them.”

They’re not seeking punitive damages, according to Whitsitt, who said the former employees just want what they’re entitled to.

“Nothing to punish them,” he said. “It’s not in their heart to do that. We’d like to see PAR succeed as an organization.”

The suit also touches upon the organization’s “lack of financial controls” and stated the board knew they were mismanaging the business and did not put financial safeguards in place in order to maintain the “appropriate capital” to pay their workers, according to the complaint.

“As soon as funds are available, we will honor our debts to all employees,” Roach said in a statement.

The financial irregularities cost the organization about $300,000 in state grant money in Sept. after some board discovered around Feb. that $60,000 to $80,000 in rent and tax bills had never been paid but had still been submitted for reimbursement to the state agencies.

Board members blame a former employee, who has since left the agency. The matter was being investigated by the North Charleston Police Department. Officials with the department could not be reached for comment today.

PAR’s board laid off at least 13 of its employees after its funding was pulled. The organization continues to provide services and responses to the crisis hot line.

Read more in tomorrow’ edition of the Post and Courier.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.

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