By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – Some new Regional Transportation District employees claim the agency failed to follow through with its promise of $2,000 signing bonuses. They’re left wondering “where’s the ethics?”

One such employee, who wished to remain anonymous, applied to work as a train operator in early 2020, under the premise they would receive a $2,000 signing bonus. However, once they started working, that money never came.

“We’re just ripped off,” the employee told CBS4 Investigates.

The employee said they had seen billboards in the metro area advertising the bonuses, one of the reasons why they were incentivized to apply.

“They had been doing major advertising around town,” the employee said.

The employee also sent CBS4 Investigates a copy of their employment application, which advertised the bonus too.

But once it came time to receive the first $500 installment of the bonus, the money didn’t show up. The employee and five other colleagues in the training class wondered where their bonus money was, so they started asking questions and learned the bonus program ended May 8.

However, they say no one from RTD notified them about the program ending, neither while they were applying before May 8, nor after they started working later in May. In fact, some employees said they still saw RTD signing bonus billboard ads even after they started working in May.

“You don’t hire someone in that position, a junior level position that’s depending on these type of bonuses or certain benefits, and then bring them on and don’t tell them that you have a plan not to pay them,” the employee said. “What they had done was a giant bait and switch.”

What further angered the new train operators was that three other trainees in their class did receive their first bonus installments, because they started just before the May 8 cut off date.

Operators who spoke with CBS4 Investigates explained they were offered the job long before May 8, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, were forced to start in increments of four people at a time, so their training wouldn’t be too crowded. Thus, they allege their post-May 8 start date was at no fault of their own.

RTD says it had to suspend the signing bonuses due to financial impacts from COVID-19.

A spokesperson for RTD, Pauletta Tonilas, also said all RTD employees are feeling the hit as a result of the pandemic, writing in a written statement to CBS4 Investigates, “salaried, or administrative, staff will experience thousands of dollars in reduced salaries from furloughs this year and furloughs and salary reductions next year… and many others will lose their jobs.”

RTD also says it sent announcements to employees and made an announcement about the suspension of the bonus program during an employee orientation on May 11, but the employees who spoke to CBS4 Investigates said they didn’t get those announcements.

“Number one they need to make it right by us, they need to pay, as agreed, and that means the back payment,” the employee said. “Number two, they need to get an HR department that understands what the rules are and how to treat people, because this is not one of them.”

Kati Weis

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