September 11, 2019 10:00 AM, EDT

Employees of Closed Carrier LME Are Losing Hope They'll Get Paid

LME employees may never receive back pay.LME trucks. (LME Inc.)

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Two months after less-than-truckload carrier LME of New Brighton, Minn., abruptly shut down, former employees told Transport Topics that they have not received back pay and bonuses they were promised, and fear they may never see this money.

The company, which employed about 600 employees and operated 1,200 tractors and trailers, announced in a July post to its website that it “encountered significant operating challenges during recent times, primarily due to challenges inherent in the trucking industry.” It counted 3M, Toro and John Deere among its customers.

READ MORE: Minnesota Carrier LME Abruptly Closes Doors

Scot Barts, from Sheboygan, Wis., spent a year and a half as regional driver for the company. Several months before LME closed, he sensed something was wrong when his health insurance was cut and LME began reducing drivers’ hours.

“I’ve tried calling the owners— Roger and Shari Wilsey, lots of phone calls and messages, about my back pay of $5,000, and nothing,” he said. “It tears you apart when you have a family of six.” Barts said he’s fortunate that he quickly found a new job, but said he’s still angry.

“It’s not a good feeling, and I don’t wish this on anyone. You can’t trust anyone these days. I’m not giving up until I get my money back,” he said.

LME CEO Roger Wilsey and his wife Shari — who also was employed by LME — did not return repeated calls from Transport Topics seeking comment.

The company said on its website that it needed at least 90 days to get its finances in order before workers would be paid. Barts and others said no one from the company has reached out to them.

Shawn Mason of Sioux Falls, S.D., said he and his brother Tom — who also drove for LME — are owed more than $5,000. “I was putting in 55 or 56 hours a week. What do you do?” said Mason, who also has found another job. “I spoke to a lawyer, and he said, ‘If it goes to a class-action lawsuit, you’ll be lucky to see pennies on the dollar.’ I’m not going to dwell on it. I got to keep moving forward.”

Mason said he was baffled by the closure since LME had opened two new terminals — in Joliet, Ill., and Springfield, Mo. — days before closing.

“The day we ceased operations my GM was saying, ‘Thanks for everything you’re doing, you’re doing a great job, keep it up.’ Fifteen minutes later, he comes out and says we need to talk. He brought everyone into the break room, and he says we’re closed.”

Former LME drivers also told TT that they couldn’t obtain accurate records about what they’re owed because the company’s human resources and payroll sites were shut down.

In November 2016 another company owned by the Wilseys, Roseville, Minn.-based Lakeville Motor Express, closed suddenly and laid off 95 union drivers and dockworkers without pay. A few months later, Lakeville filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which does not require a repayment schedule. However, union workers filed legal complaints that Lakeville Motor Express was continuing to operate, only with a new name — LME — and cheaper, nonunion labor. That case resulted in a $1 million settlement for the workers, payments on which began this spring. However, less than a month after that first payment was made, LME shut down.

RELATED: Lakeville Motor Express Closes

LME’s legal problems are far from over. Several lawsuits demanding as much as $90 million from Lakeville, LME and the Wilseys for alleged violations of pension obligations continue to make their way through the court system.