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NPS accused of deliberately depriving employees of pay

Norwalk Public Schools employees Hope Coles and Sadiya Deirish accuse the district of wage theft, in a lawsuit filed Friday.

NORWALK, Conn. —A pair of Norwalk Public Schools employees allege that NPS has systematically committed wage theft on them and hundreds of their colleagues.

Hope Coles and Sadiya Deirish have filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Norwalk and NPS, in Stamford Superior Court. Coles, an administrative secretary, and Deirish, an office assistant, claim that they have routinely worked more hours than they were paid for. Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr said Coles is a union president; both of the plaintiffs work in the same school and have not filed a grievance or alerted NPS of any irregularities, according to Spahr.

“One of the silliest, most specious suits I have seen,” Spahr wrote.

The lawsuit was filed Friday. NancyOnNorwalk was alerted to it by Ryan Daugherty, Managing Partner of Daugherty Law Group LLC, who represents the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs list 18 job NPS positions and promise to prove through the discovery process that “at least hundreds of individuals” have also been deprived of pay.

“Defendants have instructed the Administrative Secretaries of each school to monitor the hours worked by non-exempt employees, and then manually login to the Defendants’ time tracking software, NOVAtime, to change all of the employees’ timecards to reflect their ‘schedule’ instead of actual hours worked,” the complaint states.

It’s part of Coles’ job to input staff time and attendance into NOVAtime, the complaint states, issuing claims for unpaid wages.

“It must be noted that the Plaintiff Coles was making the payroll changes for both herself and the co-Plaintiff,” Spahr wrote.
Coles is Norwalk Federation of Education Personnel president, according to Spahr. Adding up her hours over the past year shows that she may have been shorted four hours, and Deirish was not shorted at all, Spahr said, explaining that the evidence shows occasions when they were paid for more hours than they worked.

“The plaintiffs are apparently not complaining about when hours were added to their paycheck,” Spahr wrote.

The complaint alleges a pattern of deception for two years.

NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams said NPS would not comment on litigation.

“After all this fanfare, Cole’s total losses are $200 for the year. Deirish had NO loss,” Spahr wrote. “It’s a bit sketchy when an attorney feels the need to publicize his own litigation. You wonder if the lawsuit is about a claim or about the attorney seeking publicity.”

16 comments

Denise DeMarsh July 27, 2019 at 10:11 am

They have a contract. They don’t HAVE to work extra hours even if asked to. If they do it, it’s voluntary & they can’t expect compensation.

John ONeill July 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

Let’s begin countersuing these frivolous claims. This is lunacy. Can we open up the personnel files for all to see? Technically, these people work for us.

John ONeill July 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Just looking at Norwalk payroll for 2018..Hope Coles made $ 74k. Not bad, considering she had another lawsuit ongoing related to car accident which stipulated her employment was effected.

Angry parent July 27, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Mr. Oneil these people are the ones that are in school doing the hard work in making sure that everything gets done these people deserve to be compensated if in fact they are owed!! What about the big suits that sit at City Hall and dictate and take away from our children but they’re making top dollar are you questioning their hours what about people who get hired as an administrator to run a building and is making over $100,000 and this is the first time they’ve ever being administrator are you questioning that? Oh wait what about our SPED children who have been deny services are you concerned about that or are you just upset that the para educators are tired of carry the weight and bringing work home or punching out and working off the clock just to get the job done!

Angry parent July 27, 2019 at 3:35 pm

One more thing I want to thank the para educators for going the extra mile. And I would also like to thank Jill Chuckas for fighting for our children! It’s been along road but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Mr. Oneil you too should Thank those people that work for you!

John Miller July 27, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Mr Spahr’s comments are all that we need to know about this farcical lawsuit. Why would a Union official not pursue this through the customary union grievance process? John O’Neill is correct about countersuing to recover the costs. The other comments are irrelevant and do not warrant a response.

John ONeill July 27, 2019 at 10:14 pm

I agree..Let’s find out where our money is being wasted and chop some heads. If you’d like to share some names that would expedite things. If Hope and others are super hard workers let’s give them more money. If we can share personnel records that might help case. Any chance of that happening?

Ann July 28, 2019 at 7:21 am

Releasing personnel evaluations is against the law. Look at top heavy central office to save money, not the people who work “in the trenches” with kids and families.

John ONeill July 28, 2019 at 9:15 am

I still can’t reconcile suing due to auto accident lawsuit (effecting ability to work) and being able to work overtime. Am I the only one to see the hypocrisy in this? Something just doesn’t add up.

Terri July 28, 2019 at 8:07 pm

Mr. ONeill- First and foremost an automobile accident has no bearing on the issue. No person asks for a auto accident to my knowledge. As a 20 Year Registered Nurse in the States of Connecticut and Florida there are unfortunately consequences that may restrict a person from full duty.

Second let’s open ALL the books to how long the administrative staff have been instructed by their immediate supervisors to go into the payroll system to adjust “overall” overtime for all staff members who have worked beyond their scheduled hours. If this is the expectation, staff should be given Comp time or be paid overtime. The law is the law.

Thirdly, this entire disrespect and attack to the class action suit individuals is shameful and sends a negative message that the very institution from the Receptionist to the Teaching staff that are charged with educating children is of no importance.

John ONeill July 29, 2019 at 8:42 am

I agree — Let’s open up all the books…The Accident does have bearing as lawsuit revolves around Hope’s employment being effected. How do you work overtime, but still sue over an accident claiming ability to work is impacted, and then sue city regarding overtime? I think the city should be more transparent with everything related to every city employee. I don’t think this is disprectful, just inquisitive.

Terri July 29, 2019 at 10:10 am

With all respect you are entitled to Sir you can’t agree and disagree on the true facts. Your responses are not focused on the issue at hand – but yet a an attempt on a personal attack against Hope. That’s suspect in itself! Is this meant to detract?

Furthermore, if. you did your research you’d have looked at attendance records of Hope’s. Did medical certification ever state “inability” to work? No it did not.

Instead of “stirring a pot” of utter nonsense let us “all” allow the Labor Board to open all the books and system. I’m certain it will reveal the unfair practice that has plagued all Non-certified staff whom have been taken advantage off by those they report to.

Lastly, a class action suit is on behalf of “all” Non-certified employees – not one individual. Your efforts would be most beneficial if they were directed at supporting fairness and appropriate employment practices for “all” non-certified staff.

Good day.

Angry parent July 29, 2019 at 8:27 pm

Thank you Terri and well said! I’m sure it would be more willing to join the suit if they weren’t worried about there jobs!

M. Jeffry Spahr July 31, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Please note that the Principal had posted the following Memo to “Non-Certified Staff” as follows:

“Staff, please make sure you are swiping in and out at your hourly time. OVERTIME CANNOT BE AUTHORIZED. I AM NOT AUTHORIZING ANY OVERTIME. OVERTIME COMES OUT OF MY BUDGET, AND I DO NOT HAVE FUNDS TO PAY FOR OVERTIME. For example, if your work day begins at 8:40 am, do not swipe in before that time. If your work day ends at 2:40, do not swipe out after that time. If you have questions please see me”

Accordingly, the staff was informed that they were not to work any overtime hours.

Debora Goldstein July 31, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Whether overtime is authorized is only half the question. Whether employees were expected to perform work or work-related tasks outside their hours AND without recording those hours is slightly more relvant.

John ONeill July 31, 2019 at 11:50 pm

I would like to comment, but my wife has made it clear no more dinners if I do. Hence, I can’t comment.

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