ROSEVILLE, Minn. — The state of Minnesota is suing a trucking company for wage theft and fraud in the amount of $524,000. Lakeville Motor Express closed in November without paying $370,000 owed to employees. The lawsuit, filed January 19 in Second Judicial District Court for Ramsey County, Minnesota, seeks the back wages plus $154,400 in penalties.
The state has charged Lakeville, LME Inc. and Finish Line Express, all in the Minneapolis area, with executing a scheme to close Lakeville, which employed Teamsters Union drivers. The Lakeville management then moved freight and managers to Finish Line, a new company, allegedly to hire non-union drivers. In addition, clerical employees were transferred to parent company LME Inc. The union has picketed Finish Line.
The state charged in the lawsuit that several new trucks purchased in 2016 by Lakeville are in use at Finish Line Express and that cell phones registered to Lakeville have been transferred to “employees of Finish Line.”
The Teamsters charged that, in order to circumvent a state law requiring employers of 100 or more people to notify the state and give workers 60 days’ notice of an impending closure, Lakeville management transferred non-driving workers to a parent company, LME. Lakeville employed 75 drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Finish Line management has denied that they opened the new company to hire non-union drivers or to get around the Minnesota law requiring notice of an impending closure.
“They slowly moved their clerical people and that got them down under 100,” Teamsters Local 120 Secretary –Treasurer Bill Wedebrand said. ”Managers at LME are the exact same people. They moved office staff to LME, [but] they work in the same building.”
Former Lakeville executive Travis Hoeschen started Finish Line Express in May, Wedebrand said. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office reported that the original filing for Finish Line Express LLC occurred May 5, 2016, with a registered agent listed as Jennifer Hoeschen. Jennifer Hoeschen is Travis Hoeschen’s wife, Wedebrand said.
A call at the time to a number listed for Finish Line Express was answered by a recorded message from “Jen Hoeschen.” A message left was not returned.
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