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NPS ‘wage theft’ lawsuit moves to federal court

Norwalk Public Schools employees Hope Coles and Barbara Riley accuse the district of wage theft, in a pair of legal complaints filed in federal court Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. – The lawsuit accusing Norwalk Public Schools of wage theft has been revised, expanded and shifted to federal court.

“Today, we filed two (2) Complaints in the District of Connecticut (United States District Court) against the City of Norwalk,  Norwalk Board of Education, and Norwalk Public Schools District alleging multiple violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (‘FLSA’),” Attorney Ryan Daugherty wrote Thursday.

Daugherty withdrew the case from state court last week. It can be restored within four months, he said Monday.

One federal complaint has been filed by Hope Coles, a plaintiff in the state suit, and the other by Barbara Riley. Sadiya DeIrish, also a plaintiff in the first suit, is not named in these actions.

They are both collective actions: Lawyers.com states that this is similar to a class action lawsuit but employees will not be automatically included;  instead they must opt in within a certain amount of time. The lawsuits seek unpaid wages for 2016-19, lawyers’ fees and damages.

Riley states in her complaint that she is a paraeducator working two jobs for NPS. Together, the two jobs have regularly amounted to more than 40 hours a week, but NPS did not pay her overtime, the complaint states. She is owed an estimated $1,027.62 in unpaid wages.

Coles states that as an administrative secretary she was instructed to routinely change employees time charts to reflect the hours they are scheduled to work, not their actual hours. She was also shortchanged and estimates her unpaid wages as $1,242.09.

“On average, each Administrative Secretary, of each school, manually reduces the hours of approximately ten (10) to fifteen (15) employees per week,” the complaint states. If the secretary didn’t do it, a payroll clerk or payroll supervisor would. “{N}umerous employees’ time records are inaccurate.”

Riley works as a paraeducator in the schools and also in the After the Bell program, the complaint states. She represents a class of workers who have two jobs in the school system.

In addition to damages, the pair is seeking “a reasonable service award… to compensate her for the time she spent attempting to recover wages for FLSA Collective Members and for the risks she took in doing so,” and prejudgment interest.

Norwalk Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr responded:

“If the plaintiffs believed that there was a problem with overtime payments, they were obligated pursuant to the terms of the Union contract to sit down and discuss the matter before even filing a grievance (let alone a lawsuit). You have to ask yourself why, if they have a valid claim, did they not do this?

“The Riley Plaintiff is alleging about $1,000 in damages. Really? That’s a Small Claims amount. Again, the Administration is certainly willing to hear what they have to say. Did their attorney try this (or just bring this claim looking for a fee)?”

 

The lawsuits state that the union contract “does not contractually bind the parties to arbitrate a dispute….  There are no specific references in the CBA {Collective Bargaining Agreement} either to FLSA or to ‘statutory causes of action’ generally.”

2 comments

John ONeill September 13, 2019 at 8:40 am

What a freaking joke…I hope Jeffry Spahr will inform the taxpayers of Norwalk the costs involved in this claim. That being said, if a principal is responsible for foul play, he or she should be fired on the spot. Then, of course we’ll have another lawsuit for Mr Spahr to deal with. Maybe Ryan Daugherty can handle that one as well.

Meghead September 14, 2019 at 11:30 am

NoN reports:’… Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr on Monday pointed out that he filed a motion to dismiss in the case, a motion that he feels “pretty much made it clear that it was inappropriate for them to have filed their lawsuit. It seems clear that the position that we had taken all along in this regard was correct and that their legal reasoning and logic was mistaken.”’ By Thursday, the Plaintiffs had filed an FLSA claim. Clearly, the mistake was Spahr’s, for thinking he could intimidate the Parties into silence, and hide ANOTHER Norwalk ‘Oopsie!’ Perhaps the Plaintiffs didn’t approach the Administration because they are more concerned with justice, than with allowing the City of Norwalk,and Spahr, to hide yet another wrongdoing, by ‘keeping it local’.

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