Workers unpaid after Rifle business closes | PostIndependent.com

Workers unpaid after Rifle business closes

As Christmas arrived, fathers, homeowners and soon-to-be mothers all formerly employed by Gilco Transportation were left hopeless after paychecks bounced without any indication of when, if ever, they will be paid.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment even told one of the workers he was owed too much to get state help and would have to go to court.

After several years of business in Rifle, Gilco Transportation, a family-owned trucking company, and its affiliated operations closed this fall and, former workers say, failed to pay for several weeks’ worth of work.

“My paychecks kept getting returned, but I kept working and every day I would ask the owners when I would be getting paid,” said Battlement Mesa resident Willie Hughes, who worked at Gilco Transportation for four years. “Each day they would come up with some excuse. Finally after several bad paychecks they agreed to lay me off.”

Hughes, who showed the Post Independent copies of his paychecks that bounced, said he and his former colleagues are owed for six weeks of work plus two weeks of vacation, totaling two months’ worth of pay that they no longer believe they will ever receive.

They said they are seeking help from Rifle police and the labor department, but the latter sent Hughes a letter saying that it can investigate wage claims only if they are for less than $7,500. Hughes says he is owed $8,076.96.

Brother and sister Keith and Kathleen Gilstrap owned Gilco Transportation, Gilco Petroleum Park, Gilstrap Enterprises and Gilin Logistics, located on U.S. 6. Some of the companies’ work was related to western Garfield County’s natural gas industry, which is in a lull.

Keith Gilstrap, reached by phone, declined to comment.

Donald McClelland, a former truck driver for Gilco Transportation, said that in the beginning the company seemed solid, but he soon ran into problems.

He said he quit after his first check bounced, but he was still owed partial pay as he was already into another pay period. He said he is owed $3,700 through two paychecks.

“I checked my mailbox every day for at least a month, and I never got either of my paychecks,” he said. “It’s made it extremely tight for my wife and I money-wise. We were worried that we would lose our house.”

After the first paycheck bounced, McClelland said he was assured by the owners that things would be corrected. He still has not received a dime of his last two paychecks. McClelland said that he has hired a lawyer in order to get the money he is owed, and a court date is scheduled for Jan. 17. If he doesn’t receive his pay by Jan. 17, his lawyer will be seeking three times the amount.

Several former employees of the company have approached the labor department and Rifle police looking for answers.

Denver-based attorney Todd Fredrickson said that the employees have two choices if their employer failed to pay them what is owed. If their claim is less than $7,500, they can file a claim with the labor department — though the department cannot enforce that the payment be made — or they can go to court.