Daycare Fails to Pay Teachers, Refund Parents
Published January 6th, 2014
No wages and no refunds.
Parents and teachers at Cherry Tree Learning Academy in Northwest Gainesville are left with many questions after the daycare's owner has failed to pay employees.
Some parents who paid for child care are out of luck as well.
No one can get in touch with Beverly Hicks-Burkett.
Not even the Department of Children and Families and that's raising some eyebrows to those who say she owes them.
"It's really a big injustice I feel like I'm experiencing right now," said Crystal Carr, mother who enrolls her son at Cherry Tree.
After Crystal Carr pre-paid a weeks tuition for her two-year-old son at Cherry Tree Learning Academy, she was called on Friday by owner Beverly Hicks-Burkett and told the daycare would be closed for the next two weeks because of water damage.
She asked Hicks-Burkett for a refund or placement in another daycare in the meantime-- and was refused.
"I've been put in the situation where I have to call into work to find another daycare facility, having pre-paid for child care," said Carr.
And that's not all: Employees are coming forward, saying they haven't been paid.
"I worked there for three weeks in December. I worked 120 hours and I haven't gotten paid for those hours," said Cherry Tree Teacher Carolyn Fields.
"Like her clients and her employees, we tried to get in contact with the owner of this daycare today but the daycare is closed and she's not answering any of her emails or her cell phones calls," said Lauren Lettelier, TV20 News.
"She's not returning any of my attempts to contact her," said Carr.
"I called her cellphone, I have called the daycare. And she's not returning anything," said Fields.
The Department of Children and Families Child Care Licenses division is having trouble reaching her.
They have been notified of these claims and are trying to get in touch with Hicks-Burkett.
"When you put your trust into somebody, you don't think that that type of person would do that type of stuff to you without at least talking to you about it," said Fields.
It's a situation both women wish they didn't have to deal with and it's made them feel at a loss.
"To feel totally powerless in a situation where I'm a responsible working parent, it is beyond frustrating," said Carr.
There is a new ordinance in Alachua County that enables victims of wage theft to file a complaint through the county so the county can help them work towards receiving payment from the employer.
Carr is now looking for another daycare suitable for her child and Fields is looking at filing action with the Department of Labor.
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