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Attorney: Fed judge seeks to end NPS wage theft lawsuit by September

A screengrab of the Daugherty Law Group’s website.

Updated, 1:27 p.m.: Additional information.

NORWALK, Conn. — There’s talk of a settlement in the lawsuit accusing Norwalk Public Schools of wage theft by not paying employees for overtime hours.

A telephone conference is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the lawsuit, which was filed in state court in July and transferred to federal court in September. Judge Janet C. Hall on Feb. 13 certified it as a class action lawsuit, allowing the plaintiffs to invite other NPS employees to join in.

“We have identified over 500 current and former employees that may qualify to join either the Coles or Riley collective lawsuit. The putative class members will receive a court-approved Notice of Their Right To Join the FLSA {Fair Labor Standards Act} collective lawsuit soon. They will have 45 days to join one of the collective lawsuits,” Attorney Ryan Daugherty, representing Hope Coles and Barbara Riley, wrote Monday.

The complaints filed by Coles and Riley were recently consolidated into one.

Riley, a paraeducator, estimates she is owed $1,027.62 in unpaid wages, according to her complaint. Coles, an administrative secretary, estimates her unpaid wages as $1,242.09.

These numbers “are not intended to be exact calculations,” Daugherty said Tuesday.

“We only reviewed the timesheets available to us at the time,” he wrote. “The Riley hours listed in the Complaint only account for a few months, and the same goes for Coles’ calculations.”

He continued:

“They were not meant to be approximations, but courts do want to know that the plaintiffs are owed some overtime prior to the discovery phase. The dates used in the complaint simply demonstrate that the plaintiffs’ allegations are probable and they deserve an opportunity to prove their cases after the discovery phase has ended.

“The final numbers can only be computed after all of their timesheets have been audited.”

 

Twelve additional NPS employees had joined the lawsuit as of late December.

 

‘Employees that might fit the fact pattern’

Norwalk Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr on Monday explained:

“The Riley group involves a claim that some employees worked in the schools as paraeducators. They also worked for the After the Bell program. This was contemplated as being a separate job and an opportunity for them to make another salary. However, they are contending that the hours worked in the school and in the ATB program should be combined and where such hours exceed 40 in a week that they should be paid overtime.

 “We are in the process of identifying the population of employees that might fit that fact pattern and ‘running the numbers’ to see how many hours they worked and if they are due any additional amount of pay.

 “The Coles group is diverse and we have not really gotten the common thread that is alleged to run among the claimant’s claims. In general, it is alleged that some workers worked extra hours, that some fellow workers who were in charge of the payroll records adjusted the timesheets so that there would be nor overtime showing. They claim that they are entitled to this missing overtime. Once more, we are in the process of identifying those that might be a part of this group. Once that is done we will analyze their time records to see if any amount is due them.”

 

 

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski has moved to end the After the Bell program, factoring $337,000 into Norwalk Public Schools’ requested 2020-21 operating budget to help fund before- and after-school programs at the Carver Center.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys had proposed including NPS custodians in the lawsuit but this was recently dropped. Nine custodians were inadvertently sent notices and elected to opt in but were formally dropped from the case last week.

 

Motions to dismiss

The lawsuit names NPS, the Board of Education and the City of Norwalk as defendants.

Spahr in January filed motions to dismiss, alleging that Norwalk Public Schools was not served notice correctly. He cites a previous victory in a lawsuit filed against NPS by John Mosby and asserts that a complaint must be filed to an NPS clerk, not a City Clerk, as was done in this lawsuit.

State Marshall Corelli handed the complaint against NPS to Norwalk Assistant City Clerk Irene Dixon because the NPS website does not mention a clerk, and Dixon told  Corelli that she could accept service on behalf of NPS, Attorney Carlos Leach says in his rebuttal.

In addition, attorneys for both sides have been “engaged in numerous settlement negotiations over the phone or through e-mail” from the outset of the case and NPS never challenged the delivery of the complaint, Leach states.

Spahr also states that the employees are employed by NPS and the City has no responsibility for them being paid correctly.

The City and NPS have a joint employer relationship and the City is the proper defendant because Boards of Education do not have the power to sue and be sued in Connecticut, he argues.

The motions have not been ruled upon yet.

“All parties have agreed, and the Judge has agreed to ‘stay’ her decision on the Motions to Dismiss until after our settlement conference,” Daugherty explained.

 

Settlement conference?

A Feb. 3 status report states, “the parties are engaged in ongoing discussions regarding the voluntary exchange of relevant payroll information and possible settlement.”

Tuesday’s conference is “to discuss what needs to be done (see above) before the parties can discuss the case and to set a date for when the actual settlement conf. can be held,” Spahr wrote.

“All parties are optimistic we can resolve both cases so the Judge referred both cases for a settlement conference,” Daugherty wrote. “The judge would like for us to schedule the settlement conference in May 2020, so we hope to have both cases wrapped up before the start of the new school year.”

6 comments

John ONeill February 25, 2020 at 8:35 am

The Norwalk Public Schools should sub-out as many programs as possible so they don’t have these issues. This is ridiculous on many levels. Everyday we see examples of why more government is not a good thing. The phrase “Government is not the solution to a problem, government is the problem”. If a teacher also coaches, should that teacher get paid Overtime for coaching?? Where does it end? Lunacy

Bryan Meek February 25, 2020 at 8:52 am

Odd this news would come out the day of budget ask, but indeed it is news.

Now we know why the two $1000 give or take claims going back 4 years did not go through the grievance process, which is regularly employed by NPS staff when they feel wronged. Why they did not use this process that ordinary taxpayers don’t get to use was a mystery.

Much, much large claims have been filed over the years for various things where agreements were reached without tying up the court system and enriching lawyers. But now we know the real story, we have class action attorneys looking at Norwalk as a target and why not given our hoard of cash?

Do we know yet the total valuation of the 400 plus lawsuits coming for the botched revaluation? It shouldn’t be that difficult to add up the prior assessed values of the properties, the current assessments, and then calculate an expected settlement rate. Or is $2500 in overtime claims a more important discussion?

John ONeill February 25, 2020 at 1:14 pm

The more I think about this lawsuit the more ticked off I become. I’d like to see a list of plaintiffs so I will know who not to hire down the road. I’d also like to know who administered this program so I can write a comment supporting the firing of that idiot. Is it possible it’s the same person responsible for the expired gift cards? Wouldn’t surprise me. This entire situation reinforces why many people distrust unions, government officials and lawyers. Mix all 3 ingredients together and you have a Thioacetone Milkshake. (For those unaffiliated with “Thiocetone” it is a chemical that may be the most foul smelling compound on the planet — Now you know!)

John Miller February 25, 2020 at 7:07 pm

@John O’Neill: Everything you stated in both of your comments is totally spot on and I am also totally ticked off. These people are totally incompetent. If the NPS opened a lemonade stand at 7am it would be in Chapter 11 before noon and in Chapter 7 liquidation before 3pm.

NIMBY February 25, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Disingenuous leaders tell us to support the new high school despite concerns about diverting resources from needier areas within NPS.. So without objection many follow directions and support the school, which helps keep jobs (for now).

Meanwhile Will Haskell opposes regionalization, as does Bob Duff for Darien schools..

“there’s never been a bill to affect Darien regionalization or schools. Let’s stop that kind of nonsense and talk like somehow there’s a conspiracy against our school districts. There’s not.” Duff said a few weeks ago in Darien.

Bryan Meek February 26, 2020 at 12:10 am

@Nimby. Nice reporting on yet another flat out lie from Duff. It does sadden me to see how far he has fallen. Hope is almost lost for him.

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