‘I have six children:’ Evans Co. School System threatens legal action, demands employee repay $1,000 bonus

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 11:00 PM EDT
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EVANS COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Evans County School District is threatening an employee with legal action for not paying back a bonus.

Yolanda Cullars said she’s one of a few Evans County School System employees being targeted to pay back a retention bonus.

“I’m trying to figure out why I gotta pay the retention bonus back if I’m still an employee and I never left.”

The district wants $1,000 from her, and they’ve already started taking it out of her check.

“I just feel like it was kind of backstabbing.”

When the district gave out the bonuses for the 2022 school year, the only strings attached were that an employee couldn’t “leave” during that school year or it would be deducted from their check.

Cullars went from a full-time substitute and bus driver to part-time.

That triggered a collection effort from the school system revealed by threads of emails WTOC obtained between the school system and Cullars.

WTOC reached out to Superintendent Marty Waters to ask about the language not being clear about “leaving.”

He responded it “implied leaving a bonus-eligible position” - meaning the bonus was only for those who are full-time.

Cullars said: “It has been back and forth. One minute I can keep it and the next minute I can’t keep it.”

The emails sent to WTOC also show a human resources representative telling Cullars in July of last year that she could keep the bonus because she drove enough hours.

Three months later, the same representative said due to an audit and the bonus being federal funds, she needed to sub 120 days to avoid repayment.

A month after that - telling her she’s behind in her hours. They threatened to take Cullars to court as recently as last week.

“I think it’s blown out of proportion and they’re wrong. There’s no right in this situation whatsoever.”

But their latest action - withholding her last paycheck of $108 to put toward her balance.

“That affects a lot. I have six children. And when you have children that’s what your wages are for to take care of your household. When you’re depending on receiving wages you worked for and those are taken, that puts you in a bind and causes a lot of problems.”

Cullars said if there’s any indication of how the school system treats their employees, it’s this.

“At any given time when those doors were open at Evans County School System or working for the board for the school system...I’ve always been there. There was never a moment they had to worry about me not coming. During the Covid relief or situation I was there.”

And if the school district does proceed with legal action, she plans to fight it in court.

“If anyone’s out there, any lawyers, attorneys, that want to represent me...I’m open to having a discussion. At this point, I’m just waiting.”

Superintendent Marty Waters also mentioned that Cullars hasn’t worked more than three days since July so since there isn’t another paycheck to deduct the balance. He said courts are their final option.

He also said it’s standard procedure to deduct from an employee’s paycheck if they owe the district money.