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Case Worker Slams NY Charity in Class Action

MANHATTAN (CN) - A charity that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year serving 60,000 vulnerable New Yorkers is "not so conscious of the plight of their very own workers," including a woman who put in 100-hour weeks without overtime, a class claims in court.

Doreen Jones is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on Oct. 13 against SCO Family of Services, a Glen Cove, N.Y.-based charity, and four of its top executives.

The lawsuit notes that SCO "flagrantly touts its socially conscious mission" on its website, which boasts of its 120-year history and its current reach of helping thousands of homeless and struggling families and more than 100 locations.

However, "case workers who are entrusted to carry out the organization's mission on a day-to-basis, social conscience, a sense of fairness, and even the law, are of little concern to defendants," the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court states.

"In fact, defendants, who collect hundreds of millions of dollars in fees on an annual basis, routinely and willfully take advantage of their case workers to the point were they are overworked, underpaid, and intentionally deprived of their legal, earned wages," the 15-page action continues.

The charity's chief strategy officer Rose Anello stood by her organization's record with its employees in a phone interview.

"SCO takes great pride in assuring that staff are not only lawfully compensated, but treated fairly and with the utmost respect," she commented.

SCO's most recent publicly filed tax form reported that the organization received more than $244 million in total revenue from contributions, grants, services, investments and other income in 2013.

The organization has sometimes struggled, however, to keep its finances in the black, the same form shows.

It lost more than $518,000 in 2012, and made more than $498,000 in 2013.

Jones, who has worked for the organization for seven years, says that the charity has cut corners at the expense of its employees.

Since Jones started working for the charity in 2008, her salary barely inched up from $35,500 to $38,515 a year, she says.

She says that she's allowed to clock in only 35 hours per week, but that her real hours typically range from between 55 to 75 hours.

That's because the charity and its executives "burden their caseworkers with immense case loads, inadequate staffing, and deadlines which must be met in order to avoid severe negative repercussions," according to the lawsuit.

"If case workers do not meet these deadlines, despite the amount of hours that it takes in a workweek to do so, defendants threaten such case workers with discipline, up to and including termination," the complaint says. "Essentially, the case workers are left with no choice but to do the work at home, on weekends, and during their lunch 'breaks' (which could take anywhere from at least fifty to seventy hours per week), without compensation, or lose their jobs."

For two weeks, Jones put in roughly 140 hours without collecting any overtime, she says.

Jones is represented by Russell Moriarty of Levine & Blit in the lawsuit, which alleges violations of U.S. and state employment-law protections.

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