The East Providence resident worked as a custodian at Sowams School and Barrington Middle School from Oct. 4, 2010 to Aug. 17, 2012, and said that when he went to collect his final paycheck he was expecting some extra money for the nine-and-a-half vacation days he had not used.
Instead, the school department’s payroll clerk told him that there would be no additional money in his check. He reportedly challenged her on the issue; she later said she would check with the school finance director but Mr. Braga said he never heard back from local officials.
“I just want what’s owed me,” Mr. Braga said. “I’m a good employee. I never caused any trouble.”
On his last day of work with the school department, Mr. Braga filed a union grievance with the school department, which local school officials later denied. He’s now waiting for a meeting with the Barrington School Committee and other administration to appeal that decision. Should the appeal be denied, Mr. Braga would take the issue to arbitration.
“There is a clear black and white state law,” said Mr. Braga, referring to Chapter 28-14 of the state’s general laws. “Now the school district is basically getting ready to use taxpayer money to go to arbitration and fight against a state law.”
A surface look at the state law shows that upon separating from a company, employees who have worked for at least one year must be paid for their accrued vacation time “in full or on a prorated basis with all other due wages on the next regular payday for the employee.”
Mr. Braga said the school department alotted him 15 vacation days starting on July 1, 2012, but that he used only five and a half days. He said the monetary equivalent to the unused vacation days is about $1,800, which he expected to see in his final paycheck.
Instead, Ron Tarro, the director of administration and finance for Barrington schools, sent a letter to Mr. Braga. It stated that the school department actually overpaid him by three days.
“Your vacation days earned up to your last day of August 17, on a prorated basis was 2.5 days. However you were distributed in your pay check a totaled 5.5 days. We have identified that you have been overpaid by 3 vacation days,” Mr. Tarro wrote in the letter.
Mr. Braga said that’s not how it works.
“In the contract, it doesn’t say anything about prorated,” he said, adding that starting on July 1, he could have used all 15 vacation days.
Mr. Braga worked for the Barrington Department of Public Works until Oct. 1, 2010. He was one of the men who lost their positions when the town contracted with a private refuse and recycling collection company in 2010. Mr. Braga found new employment with the school department at the same time.
Mr. Braga said that when he left the DPW, he was paid for his unused vacation time … in full.
“I believe I had a week left,” he said. “They paid me on the way out the door.”
Mr. Braga returned to the DPW on Aug. 20, shortly after resigning his post at the school department.
Mr. Tarro refused to comment on the ongoing grievance dispute; he said school officials do not discuss personnel issues publicly.
Kevin Braga’s work history with the town started 7 years ago when the DPW hired him. He spent five years working with the public works department, mostly on the refuse and recycling trucks.
But in Oct. 2010, the town eliminated the DPW’s refuse and recycling collection department and instead contracted with Seekonk-based MEGA Disposal. The private contractor signed a multi-year deal with town officials to handle the trash and recycling pick-up duties.
That move left Mr. Braga and six other DPW employees out of work. Some of those men returned to the DPW after other, long-time employees retired, while Mr. Braga found work at the school department. Barrington school officials hired Mr. Braga as a custodian at Sowams School and Barrington Middle School.
Mr. Braga said the work was good, and he appreciated having a job, but found the hours difficult. He said his wife works days and his school job was nights.
“I was at work when she was home with the kids,” he said.
On Aug. 20, Mr. Braga returned to the DPW after a position there opened up.
“This makes my home life a little simpler,” he said.