Atlantic County corrections officers filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court demanding overtime compensation for time worked before and after their shifts.
Attorney Andrew Glenn said that the two named plaintiffs, George Herbert and Jeffrey Creighton, would be joined by 78 other officers in a class-action suit if the class is certified.
The Atlantic County Department of Law had not yet been notified of the suit, an aide to county counsel James Ferguson said. Atlantic County Administrator Gerald DelRosso did not respond to a request for comment.
The complaint states that the county has had a "widespread pattern, policy and practice" of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law and has "knowingly and willfully failed to pay" officers for all overtime hours worked in a workweek.
Glenn said that the periods of overtime range from 10 to 20 minutes "to sometimes more than an hour" before and after shifts on several days.
"They're required to do work they're not being paid for," Glenn said. "The powers that be are essentially turning a blind eye, when it's a necessary and essential part of their job."
Work done during those periods includes tasks such as paperwork and organizing items such as keys and needles, Glenn said.
"When they punch in, they immediately start work on whatever may be needed," Glenn said. "However, if they're 10 minutes late, that gets deducted. So they're deducted if late, but not paid if they're early."
Glenn said that the defenses in similar cases are usually that such amounts are "de minimis," or too small, or that while the employees have clocked in, it's still not "work."
He said the fact that 80 officers could be included in the suit shows that the amounts of time and money are not too small, and the fact that employees are docked if they clock in late shows that clocking in does count as work.
The plaintiffs are requesting "compensation for all overtime hours at one and one-half their regular rate of pay due them for the hours worked by them for which they have not been properly compensated, liquidated damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of suit, and for all other appropriate relief," although there was no specific number.
Glenn said that if certified, letters will be sent out to more than 200 other corrections employees asking if they wish to participate.
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