GEORGE T. MCLAUGHLIN
CENTRAL FALLS BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND THE RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND TRAINING
County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Jeffrey D. Sowa, Esq.
Defendant: Vicki J. Bejma, Esq. Bernard P. Healy, Esq.
this Court is the appeal of George T. McLaughlin (McLaughlin)
from a final decision of the State of Rhode Island Department
of Labor and Training (RIDLT), denying his complaint against
the Central Falls Board of Trustees (Board of Trustees) for
unpaid wages for work performed on November 9, 1995.
Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 42-35-15.
filed a complaint against the Board of Trustees on October
29, 2014 for unpaid wages for work performed on November 9,
1995 under G.L. 1956 §§ 28-14-1 et seq.
Administrative R., Ex. 1. McLaughlin contends that he started
his job on Thursday, November 9, 1995. Id. The
Central Falls School District (School District) argues that
McLaughlin started his employment with the School District on
Monday, November 13, 1995. Id.
administrative record reflects that McLaughlin taught
secondary English as a Second Language (ESL) for the School
District starting in 1995. Administrative R., Ex. 2, Letter
from Maureen Chevrette, Ed.D., Superintendent of Central
Falls School District Schools, to Whom It May Concern (Feb.
14, 1997). In August 2014, McLaughlin was working with the
Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) to
retire from his teaching position. Administrative R., Ex. 2,
Email from Diane Bourne, Assistant Executive Dir., ERSRI, to
George McLaughlin (Aug. 20, 2014, 12:36 EDT).
August 20, 2014, Diane Bourne (Bourne), the Assistant
Executive Director of the ERSRI, wrote to McLaughlin that:
"It appears that the intent of Central Falls [School
District] was to have you work and contribute for 135 days
for the 1995-1996 school year and earn 1 full year of service
credit. However, by ERSRI calculations, the wages paid to you
for that year do not equal 135 days, but rather 134
told McLaughlin that "[i]f that is, in fact the error,
Central Falls will have to notify
of their miscalculation and arrange for payment of the cost
of the additional wages (and contributions)."
responded two days later to Bourne. In that response email,
"I discovered in July that the 'Service Credit
Earned' for 1996 on my ERSRI online account had been
changed . . . from one year (as it had posted for 18 [sic]
years) to 3/4 of a year, while we were still trying to reach
clarification regarding the length of service
discrepancy." Administrative R., Ex. 2, Email from
George McLaughlin to Diane Bourne, Assistant Executive Dir.,
ERSRI (Aug. 22, 2014, 12:44 EDT).
went further in his email, saying that he believed that
Central Falls was being "lethargic" or
"seemingly intransigent" to his inquiries.
Id. McLaughlin continued, saying that he was forced
to push back his intended retirement date of June 30, 2014
because of the disagreement on start date. Id. He
further added that as he was unable to retire on that date,
he lost retirement compensation that he would have received
during that summer. Id.
more emails were exchanged between Bourne and McLaughlin.
See Administrative R., Ex. 2. It was determined at
the conclusion of the emails contained in the record that
McLaughlin and the School District would need to determine
the actual start date and whether there was an error.
Administrative R., Ex. 2, Email from Diane Bourne, Assistant
Executive Dir., ERSRI, to George McLaughlin (Aug. 26, 2014,
School District took the position that McLaughlin had worked
only 134 days of the school year. See Administrative
R., Ex. 4. McLaughlin took action and filed a complaint via a
"Non-Payment of Wages Complaint Form" and an
accompanying letter from his attorney on October 19, 2014
with RIDLT. Administrative R., Ex. 1.
Board of Trustees was served with notice of McLaughlin's
contention by RIDLT Chief Labor Standards Examiner, Helen G.
Gage (Gage). Administrative R., Ex. 3. It appears that
McLaughlin's complaint was initially dismissed by Gage in
a letter from December 12, 2014. See Administrative
R., Ex. 2; Administrative R., Ex. 5. McLaughlin's
attorney sent a letter arguing that the RIDLT was required to
reopen the case and consider equitable tolling principles.
Administrative R., Ex. 2. Specifically, he argued:
"Mr. McLaughlin's reasonable belief that he had
received wages for November 9, 1995 was reinforced by the
District's misrepresentations and misleading silence.
Prior to August 20, 2014, Mr. McLaughlin had no
awareness or knowledge of any no-payment of wages, and
therefore the 'discovery rule' works to delay the
accrual of the statute of limitations on his claim."
Id. (emphasis in original).
for the Board of Trustees argued against the application of
equitable tolling principles. Administrative R., Ex. 4. On
April 23, 2015, RIDLT Assistant Director of Workforce
Regulation and Safety, Joseph R. Degnan (Degnan), issued a
decision stating that McLaughlin had failed to file his
complaint with the RIDLT within the three-year statute of