EASTHAM — It took 15 months, a boycott of Willy’s Gym, and civil citations from the attorney general’s office, but Barbara Niggel has paid back wages to the widow of tennis pro Joe Abbott.
Abbott, an instructor at Willy’s World Wellness and Conference Center, died of a heart attack on Aug. 7, 2019, while teaching a tennis lesson there.
Only after his death did his wife, Francine Abbott, discover that Niggel, who owns Willy’s, owed her husband nearly $20,000 in unpaid wages.
“My husband worked hard,” Francine, who lives in South Dennis, told the Independent last month. “He worked long days and he went above and beyond.”
Many of Abbott’s students organized a campaign to persuade Niggel to repay his widow. Niggel, who has a documented history of lawsuits filed by employees and contractors who say they were not paid by her, did not return a call this week for comment.
Following Abbott’s death, a pledge to boycott Willy’s was signed by 65 people, said Anne Sigsbee, a physician who lives in Orleans and was an organizer of the boycott. The boycott has cost Niggel thousands in tennis tournament fees, said David Bernstein, another organizer.
On Saturday, Sigsbee sent out an email to those who had signed the pledge, telling them the news. Bruce Bierhans, Francine Abbott’s attorney, and Taylor Dauksewicz, Niggel’s attorney, both said the issue has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Abbott has received $17,741 in back pay.
The gym owner also was fined $101,466 by the state attorney general’s office.
Cooperation from Joe Abbott’s students helped Attorney General Maura Healey charge Niggel with civil citations for violating earned sick time laws, failure to make timely payment of wages, failure to furnish accurate records to the state, and misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
Niggel, who has appealed the attorney general’s citations, has a pre-hearing phone conference scheduled for Nov. 20.
It’s unclear how many of the tennis players will return to Willy’s. Sigsbee said she had not gone back yet.
Bernstein, who lives in Eastham, said he will play there occasionally because he has friends who can’t drive to the Mid-Cape Athletic Club in South Yarmouth, where he is now a member. He could, he said, return to Willy’s anytime without paying a dime because he has a lifetime membership.