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'Truly a nightmare situation': Gaston County teachers file lawsuit over payroll system

A lawsuit filed by two Gaston County teachers alleges the board of education went forward with a flawed payroll system despite warnings it was compromised.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Two teachers are suing the Gaston County Board of Education over the school district's ongoing payroll issues, alleging the district went forward with a new payroll system despite a warning that it was compromised

For more than a year, Gaston County Schools employees have protested outside the school board's office asking for their paychecks to be correct. The district admitted to hundreds of errors that impacted both teacher pay and retirement accounts. 

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The lawsuit was filed in North Carolina Superior Court by Gaston County teachers Elizabeth Haywood and Bobbie Cavnar. The pair alleges the board's actions were negligent, unlawful and unconstitutional. 

At a meeting last month, Haywood begged school board members to fix incorrect payments. 

"This is truly a nightmare situation that educators are living daily and it has created unnecessary stress and hardships," Haywood said in February. 

During that same meeting, board member Robbie Lovelace called the payroll issues a "dark cloud" that would determine "how we're going to be remembered." 

The lawsuit says one of Haywood's paychecks overpaid her by $17,000. When tax season came around, the lawsuit says she had to pay taxes on that income. 

"I am stuck paying higher taxes this year with a promise of lower taxes next year," she said. "That may or may not happen. This is entirely unacceptable."

Cavnar's been on the front lines for multiple protests against the district. The lawsuit alleges that one month she didn't even get a paycheck. 

"We're not able to get a concrete answer of really who is to blame and all of this but ultimately we just want it fixed," Cavnar said last September. "We want it fixed."

The teachers' lawyers say before Gaston County Schools went to the new payroll system that district officials knew it would face problems. The suit claims a test run for the payroll system showed more than 2,000 errors. 

"Normally, I'd cringe at the very notion of talking so personally about money and pay," one teacher wrote on Facebook. "My Southern mother would have considered it very bad form and nobody's business. But the situation has gotten too bad and too ridiculous to stay quiet."

The teachers are asking for all their back pay and money for any financial and economic damages these problems have caused them, as well as for all of their attorney fees to be paid. 

Gaston County Schools has not returned WCNC Charlotte's request for comments on the lawsuit. 

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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