TARGET 8: Day care employees say they're going unpaid and 'struggling'

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COLUMBIA - Several employees at a Columbia day care say their boss has not paid them in weeks. 

Former employee Shauna Kunze contacted KOMU 8 News after she quit Lots of Love Preschool and Childcare Center. Kunze said she left after being paid irregularly.

She said the owner, Kim Jones, owed her pay for more than 80 hours for the past two months. On June 13, Kunze did not show up to work.

"If someone owes you almost a grand, at some point you just realize I'm probably not going to see this money or at least no time soon," Kunze said. 

Former employee Montajia Staten said Jones split up paychecks on multiple occasions without adequate warning. 

"She told us two days before payday that she wasn't paying us for the full month," Staten said.

She said she left the daycare on April 28 and received her final paycheck June 2The Missouri Department of Labor notes employees must be paid at the time of termination.

They said Jones first paid them using standard pay stubs, but the day care switched to using different pay stubs. The bottom of the document read, "Calculations based on user provided data," leaving many questioning the validity of the information.

“She had from her computer a printed off pay stub that didn't even show my amount of hours, how much I make," Kunze said. "It didn't have my last four of my social.”

The employees said the late paychecks put their families in a financially difficult position. 

Staten said, "It shouldn't get so tight that you're literally scrambling and wondering, 'Do I pay this bill or do I go put gas in my car?'"

Another former employee, Devyn Pulliam, said she had to move since she couldn't afford rent. 

"I had to move back in with my mother-in-law to be able to afford to pay my car payment and my car insurance," Pulliam said. "My electricity had been shut off at least once. My car had almost been repoed."

Former worker Kay Otterbourg said it didn't seem like Jones and her family were experiencing financial hardships like the employees.

"She's always provided for," Otterbourg said. "I'm pretty sure she gets a paycheck. I'm pretty sure her family and her kids have food on their tables. She's got gas."

On June 30, Kunze and Otterbourg visited the facility on payday to pick up their late checks. Jones told both of the employees they could not be on the property. 

Jones called the Columbia Police Department, which issued trespass warnings for both employees. The employer told an officer she sent the checks through certified mail. 

However, Otterbourg, Kunze and Pulliam said they had not received anything in the mail as of late July.

They said the paycheck issues have created a high turnover rate at the day care. A former parent at the facility asked to remain anonymous but said the kids are left suffering. 

"They love these teachers and then for whatever reason, they're not there the next morning and they don't get an answer."

Otterbourg, Kunze and Pulliam plan to file claims at a small claims court to receive payment. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to the owner of Lots of Love, but the owner refused to comment. She instead wrote a Bible verse on a post-it note: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."

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